Gun-loving Americans want the Republican National Committee to take Second Amendment rights more seriously – especially in their choice of venue for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
More than 41,000 people have signed a Change.org petition to allow the open carry of firearms at the RNC, which will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, in July.
The venue for the much-anticipated RNC event, the Quicken Loans Arena, is a gun-free zone, strictly forbidding firearms on the premises.
"In accordance with the Ohio’s 'concealed carry' law and the right for private entities to ban handguns on their premises, firearms and other weapons of any kind are strictly forbidden on the premises of Quicken Loans Arena," the arena's website reads.
But to thousands of Americans, the Republican National Convention, sponsored by a party that is known for its gun rights advocacy, should not be held in a venue that goes against those very beliefs.
"This is a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk," the petition, authored by user the Hyperationalist, says.
Although the petition has amassed thousands of signees, US Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback said the agency would not allow any firearms at the convention, in a statement to The Hill.
"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," Hoback said in the statement.
Petitioners want answers from the RNC
The petition also called on the National Rifle Association to condemn gun-free zones, on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to use his executive authority to override the "gun-free zone loophole," and for RNC Chair Reince Priebus to provide a formal explanation of how the Republican Party could choose a gun-free venue for its convention.
Citing a 2012 Forbes list of the most dangerous cities in the United States, petitioners have expressed a concern over the possibility of violence both in Cleveland and targeted at the venue specifically:
Cleveland, Ohio is consistently ranked as one of the top ten most dangerous cities in America. By forcing attendees to leave their firearms at home, the RNC and Quicken Loans Arena are putting tens of thousands of people at risk both inside and outside of the convention site.
We are all too familiar with the mass carnage that can occur when citizens are denied their basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public. EVERY AMERICAN HAS THE RIGHT TO PROTECT AND DEFEND THEIR FAMILY. With this irresponsible and hypocritical act of selecting a 'gun-free zone' for the convention, the RNC has placed its members, delegates, candidates and all US citizens in grave danger.
The convention is expecting violence
With reports of shoving matches and protesters being beaten up at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's campaign events, Cleveland is already preparing for the prospect of a violent July convention.
According to reporting from NPR, Cleveland officials and the Secret Service plan to bring 2,500 additional police officers from neighboring towns to support Cleveland's 1,500-strong force in addition to investing in barricades, bicycles, and riot gear.
This isn't unusual for political conventions. Cleveland and Philadelphia have received a combined federal grant of $50 million to cover security expenses.
And GOP conventions are familiar with protest.
In 2008, the convention was met with mobs of aggressive protesters in St. Paul, Minnesota. About 800 protesters were arrested outside the convention center, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times:
Shop windows were busted. So were police car windows. Protesters threw rocks, bottles, even garbage at the thickening rows of police in riot gear.
One group cornered members of the Connecticut Republican delegation as they were walking to a security check-point to enter the Xcel Energy Center.
"They linked arms and tried to prevent us from going in," said Heath Fahle, the state party's executive director. "They were pushing and shoving, and we were pushing back, just trying to get by."
He added: "They were grabbing at purses, at credentials, spitting on the delegates."
One protester wrestled with 83-year-old Fred Biebel and stole his credentials. Another spit on Lila Healy, the mother of the state’s GOP party chairman, and hit her in the face.
The volatility of this election has only raised the stakes.
The three candidates slated to attend the convention have been against "gun-free zones"
Second Amendment rights are a staple of conservative stump speeches.
All three candidates expected to attend the convention — Kasich, Trump, and Ted Cruz — have been outspoken about their opposition to gun-free zones, which the petition acknowledges:
Donald Trump said "I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools—you have—and on military bases on my first day. It gets signed my first day...you know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That's bait." (Jan. 8. 2016)
Ted Cruz has accurately pointed out "shooting after shooting after shooting happens in so called gun-free zones." He continued, "look, if you're a lunatic ain't nothing better then having a bunch of targets you know that are going to be unarmed." (Dec. 4, 2015)
And Ohio Governor John Kasich has been a leader in this movement to eliminate deadly "gun-free zones" starting with his brave decision to fight the Democrats and end "gun-free zones" at National Guard facilities in Ohio. (Dec. 18, 2015)
Trump declined to answer specific questions about the petition, saying that he had not seen it, but took to opportunity to reinforce his stance on Second Amendment rights.
"I have not seen the petition," Trump said on ABC. "I want to see what it says. I want to read the fine print. I have to see what it says. I’m a very, very strong person for Second Amendment. I think very few people are stronger. And I have to see the petition."
Correction: the petition's author is a user by the name "The Hyperationalist," not "The Hypernationalist." We regret the error.