Guns at the convention

An active petition on calls for the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH to allow the open carry of firearms during the Republican convention this July.  The venue in question bans a long list of things, including firearms, outside food, and recording devices.   The general theme of the venue’s regulations appears to be the careful steering of fan enthusiasm into expressions that will bring in money for the owners and performers, but the building policy statement does claim to be in the interest of “creating a safe and secure environment for all of our guests and employees.”

It’s unclear whether this petition is a serious defense of gun rights or a sarcastic accusation of hypocrisy against the Republican Party.  The fact that it focuses on open carry is suggestive, though, since gun control advocates have an allergic reaction to the public viewing of firearms, and someone claiming to be a Clinton supporter identifies himself as the author.  But reactions on Twitter and other social media sites have picked up the theme of claiming that picking this venue comes from a GOP decision not to live up to its stated position on valuing gun rights.

This situation is reminiscent of the same accusations raised against the NRA last year during its annual meeting held in Nashville.  While legal carry was allowed in most of the events, the Bridgestone Arena did not allow firearms.  From the perspective of an event organizer, the question will always be how to balance the various needs of attendees and speakers with the requirements of available locations.  I’ve had it pointed out to me that the convention could be held in Texas, since at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, site of the Texas Republican Party Convention this May, carry will be allowed, but this ignores politics.  Texas remains a foregone conclusion for Republicans, while Ohio is a swing state, and the reality of politics is that campaigns will spend the most of their time in places where they have a good chance but not a guarantee of winning.

And then there’s the Secret Service (who say they will not allow carry at the convention).  Protection of that agency isn’t mandatory for candidates who are not currently the president or vice-president, but suggesting a modern politician to go without bodyguards is to wander deep into fantasy.

All of these things are the practical concerns, but there is a larger matter here, namely the increasing distance between many politicians and ordinary citizens.  Michael Bloomberg is notorious for his opposition to gun rights combined with his armed protection detail.  The current president will continue having Secret Service agents guarding him for the remainder of his life, despite his regrets over having been unable to control guns.  And, of course, as former first lady and current candidate, Hillary Clinton also benefits from agents wearing dark sunglasses and earpieces keeping an eye on everyone around her.

The convention is symbolic, both in general political terms but also in reminding us of the differences between our leaders and the rest of us.  If so many politicians did not devote themselves to curtailing the gun rights of the American people, this matter would be much less acute.  But as long as a gulf exists in this country between the officially powerful who enjoy the privilege of the armed forces of the United States and everyone else who has to hope that local rules will allow effective self-defense, we will have to keep pointing out this injustice.  It’s not the convention specifically, but gun laws that violate rights generally that must hold our attention.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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