Americans Want to Open Carry at the Republican National Convention. Why Won’t Republicans Let Them?

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As you’ve likely seen, tens of thousands of people have signed a petition demanding that the Republican Party allow the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this year. Which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense, right? Republican politicians love guns so much; they block any laws that might save lives from gun violence, and they even block the study of gun violence, presumably because it might reveal some unflattering facts about guns (such as the fact that they kill people.) As the petition notes, every one of the three Republican candidates left in the race have argued that gun-free zones are targets for shooters. And Ohio is an open-carry state, so guns at the RNC seem like a no-brainer, on several different levels.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was asked about the petition, and he said he’d have to “study the fine print” of the petition before he commented on it. (I looked at the petition, and there is no fine print anywhere on it. That was easy!)  But the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is happening, has a no-weapons policy. And the Secret Service has announced through spokesman Robert Hoback that “Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event.” Another Secret Service spokesman told the National Review that “Title 18 United States Code Sections 3056 and 1752, provides the Secret Service authority to preclude firearms from entering sites visited by our protectees, including those located in open-carry states.”

Still, even if the two biggest authorities in this scenario—the Secret Service and the Quicken Loans Arena administration—didn’t say no to guns, why would we expect Republicans to practice what they preach? After all, visitors to the National Rifle Association’s headquarters are expected to hand over their guns. Republican leadership has never allowed guns to be carried at presidential debates. They don’t even allow guns at meetings designed to protest gun-free zones.

Are you noticing a pattern, here? You should be: Republican leaders basically want guns to be legal everywhere and for everyone, except in those places where Republican leaders mingle with the general public. When they’re expected to share a public space with ordinary Americans, Republican leaders suddenly become very anti-gun. Doesn’t indicate much faith in their own policies, does it? What does it say that they’re not willing to live under the same rules they advocate for the American public?

As I was writing this post, there was a shooting at the US Capitol which forced a very large (and, from the accounts of people on the ground, a very scary) lockdown to go into effect. Turns out, one security guard was injured and the shooter was taken into custody. It wasn’t a mass shooting. This time. And the Capitol’s police force managed to get the situation under control almost immediately. Too bad average Americans don’t benefit from the same strict security that Republican congressional leaders enjoy while they vote against gun responsibility.

(To learn more about gun responsibility, I’d encourage you to listen to our recent podcast on guns.)

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.