Last week, one “Len Davies” of Spokane, Washington, created a Change.org petition calling for Quicken Loans Arena to allow folks to open-carry guns at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer. The arena’s policy forbidding firearms makes it a de facto “gun-free zone,” Davies writes, the kind of place the NRA has called the “safest place” for a deranged killer “to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
What’s unclear at this stage is whether the petition is a joke — a work of satire by liberal blogger — or a serious effort by a lover of gun rights.
The petition calls on the NRA to condemn this “egregious affront” to Second Amendment rights and issues four additional demands: that the arena suspend its policy for the convention, that Ohio Gov. John Kasich use his executive authority to order guns be allowed at the event, that the other two GOP candidates call for the policy to be lifted for the convention, and that the Republican National Committee explain itself.
On Monday, the name “Len Davies” was scrubbed from the petition and an anonymous blogger who writes under the pseudonym The Hyperationalist came forward to claim credit for it. By that time, some 44,800 signatories had added their names to the petition, and all three Republican presidential candidates and the RNC had been forced to grapple with the contradictory forces of common-sense gun restrictions and rabid defense of Second Amendment rights.
The candidates, who have railed against “gun-free zones” on the campaign trail, were slow to condemn this particular one. Trump said on Sunday he wanted to “read the fine print” before weighing in; Cruz likewise said he hadn’t reviewed this “particular petition.” Kasich told reporters he didn’t have any authority in the matter.
The RNC said while they support open carry, the Secret Service, which provides security for the event, has determined it’s just too dangerous. “The Republican Party has been and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the 2nd amendment. It is in our Platform and is strongly supported by our candidates,” convention spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski wrote in an emailed statement. “The Republican National Convention is a National Special Security Event which means the Secret Service is the lead agency and we will defer to their planning as it relates to safety and security of the Convention.”
The Secret Service also banned guns from the convention in 2012, a decision that, thanks to an aggressive open-carry law, made the area around the Tampa Convention Center the only place where guns were forbidden in the state of Florida.
Because of that law, Tampa couldn’t restrict handguns, but it did successfully forbid anyone from carrying the following items in certain areas of the city for the duration of the 2012 convention: pieces of wood or other items that might wielded like club, water guns, super soakers, air guns, paintball guns, explosives, switchblades, hatchets, slingshots, brass knuckles, Mace, chains, crowbars, hammers, shovels, ropes, straps, “tape or string longer than 6 inches,” glass containers, ceramic vessels, light bulbs, padlocks and bicycle locks, “things that could be used as portable shields and gas masks,” aerosol cans, camping gear, ice chests, fireworks, lasers, bottles, cans, thermoses, sticks, poles, ladders, “umbrellas with metal tips,” and “any container containing urine, fecal matter or other bodily fluid.”