You can be sure that the Republican convention that will take place July 18-22 is going to find the city crawling with police, Secret Service, and other security personnel armed to the teeth and supported by an array of military-style vehicles and equipment. This was due to fears of unrest and violence because of the strong emotions generated even within the Republican party by those factions supporting and opposing Trump, in addition to those who are opposed to Republican policies in general.
The violence this week involving police and people of color has added a fresh layer of anxiety and the city of Cleveland is announcing that there will be changes in their security plans as a result. The city that initially saw getting the convention as a public relations coup that would enable them to show off Cleveland to the world must be wondering if they haven’t miscalculated and that the nation will now see a garrison city under conditions that resemble martial law.
Several GOP delegates from Pennsylvania feel that all this weaponry is still not enough and plan to bring their own weapons to the convention. Ohio is a state where you can openly carry a gun and also easily obtain a concealed carry permit and thus these people will be able to wander around with their weapons concealed or openly displayed except in the small area around and inside the convention hall where the Secret Service sets the rules.
Why do they think they need their own weapons given the massive security presence all around them?
So Klein, an insurance executive and economist, has decided to come armed to Cleveland, and he has urged his fellow delegates to do the same. “We’re talking about ISIS,” he remarks, citing the recent shooting in Orlando and the bombings at the Istanbul airport. Referring to protesters outside Trump rallies, he adds, “We’re talking about people who have shown a propensity for violence.”
“There are a whole bunch of things happening: You go to various events, receptions, whatever, outside the convention hall,” says Ash Khare, a delegate from the northwest corner of the state who applied for a concealed carry permit in preparation for Cleveland. “And you walk on the streets and, you know, people know that you are a delegate, and who knows what the crazy people are going to do? So you’ve got to be vigilant about what’s going on and prepare yourself.”
Marc Scaringi, another Trump delegate from the Harrisburg area, says that during the past few weeks there have been many emails exchanged among the Pennsylvania delegates discussing whether to bring weapons to Cleveland.
A lifelong member of the NRA who carries a gun every day, Klein notes he is particularly concerned about the threat of international terrorism. “I’m not a terrorist, okay, but I’m an academic and a theorist, and I would think that if I were an ISIS guy that I might want to attack the Republican National Convention,” he says.
Klein continues: “People will attack you at your weakest, at your softest.” That is, he explains, attacks are not likely to occur at the convention hall but elsewhere in the city where police and Secret Service officers are unlikely to stop an attack.
Matthew Jansen is another delegate who plans to bring his Glock 9mm pistol to the event because “he has seen on the Internet that police aren’t adequately prepared for the security hazards”.
I get the feeling that these people desperately want to be heroes, perhaps even hoping for something to happen so that they can thwart an attack.
Given that this past week has seen two men, Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile, who were both legally allowed to carry the arms they had with them, being shot dead by police although there is no evidence that they planned to use them or posed a threat, what makes these GOP delegates feel so confident that they will be perceived as ‘good guys with guns’ and thus on the side of law enforcement and safe from being gunned down by police?
Let me make a wild guess. I suspect that all the GOP delegates planning to bring guns and carry them openly are white because if so, police will give you the benefit of the doubt even if you actually fire a gun at a police officer, as 62-year-old North Carolina man William Bruce Ray can attest. Here are stories of eight other white people who pointed guns at police and survived.
I wrote a couple of times about what happened to Ahmed Almenhali, a UAE man who came to Cleveland for medical treatment for a stroke and ended up being tackled by police because of a hotel clerk who was panicked by his traditional Arab garb. He collapsed and was taken to hospital but he can consider himself lucky that the police in that case did not pre-emptively shoot him but quickly realized that he was no threat to anyone.
But this still leaves the question of what might be a sensible policy about guns in a gun-saturated, gun-infatuated country like the US. Marcus Ranum, a gun owner himself, has some suggestions.