In late March, a change.org petition to allow guns at the GOP National Convention this July made its rounds on the internet. The petition currently has nearly 54,000 out of a goal of 75,000 signatures.
While open carry is permitted in the state of Ohio, the Quicken Loans Arena has a private policy prohibiting the presence of firearms — open carry or concealed — on the property.
The writer of the petition expresses concern about the safety of convention attendees, citing National Rifle Association quotes which claim that gun free zones are the most vulnerable to mass shooting attacks: “[the] safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.” They claim that leaving firearms at home puts “tens of thousands of people at risk.”
“This doesn’t even begin to factor in the possibility of an ISIS terrorist attack on the arena during the convention,” the petition writer, identified only as “The Hypernationalist,” continues. “Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life.”
“All three remaining Republican candidates have spoken out on the issue and are unified in their opposition to Barack HUSSEIN Obama’s ‘gun-free zones.’”
The writer’s main argument is that the policies of the Quicken Loans Arena should not supercede the 2nd Amendment rights given to US citizens by the Constitution.
Five demands are outlined in the petition. They include 1) a suspension of the arena’s policies during the Republican National Convention, 2) the NRA’s condemnation of the gun-free zone loophole in Ohio state law, 3) an effort from Gov. John Kasich to override this loophole, 4) an explanation on the choice of venue from the Republican National Committee, and 5) support for the petition from all three Republican presidential candidates.
On Monday, March 28, Secret Service spokesperson Robert K. Hoback responded to the petition’s supporters:
“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.”
Despite the petition’s many supporters, only security personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service will be allowed to carry guns during the convention. Any unauthorized individual will not be allowed into the arena with firearms.
All three Republican presidential candidates have been asked about the petition. None have directly supported it.
Gov. John Kasich responded with “All that matters is what the Secret Service says” at an event on the 28th.
“One of the things about security that I’ve had to learn over time is that when they tell you not to do something, you don’t do it, it’s for your interest,” he continued, “And the Secret Service is very important in these decisions as is security around the entire convention.”
Senator Ted Cruz provided a similar response, saying that he hadn’t actually reviewed the petition in question but that “you would certainly want to get the recommendation from Secret Service — how to maintain security for everyone.”
Donald Trump said that he would have to read “the fine print,” but that he is also “a very, very strong person for the Second Amendment.”
Kirsten Kukowski, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, reinforced the party’s collective support for the Second Amendment in a public statement. She also emphasized that “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 the safety and security of the Convention.”
…And the man behind it
Despite being shot down by the Secret Service, the RNC open carry petition garnered more than 50,000 pro-gun supporters. It also elicited responses from GOP presidential candidates, the Secret Service and countless major news outlets.
The only problem? The writer of a petition is not a Republican party member or even a gun supporter, but rather a liberal gun control proponent.
Six days after the petition was written, CBS News traced the username “The Hypernationalist” to a man who chose to identify himself only as “Jim.”
Jim described himself as a liberal Democrat, and he intends to vote for Hillary Clinton should she become the Democratic presidential nominee. He is also a passionate advocate for gun control.
Jim told CBS that the petition is not quite a work of satire, and insists that it was a genuine political statement rather than what many would refer to as “trolling.”
“I’m 100 percent sincere in my conviction that guns should be allowed at the GOP convention,” he said. “[It would be a reflection of] the policies they sought to impose around the nation.”
Jim knew that the chances of firearms being allowed at the convention were slim, but he also wanted to hold Republican party members accountable for their support of Second Amendment rights and promote discussion.
“If they can’t live in accordance with the policies they impose upon us, they owe us that rational conversation.”