The change.org petition to allow open carry of firearms at this summer’s GOP national convention currently has 53,882 supporters. It needs 75,000 to be sent to presidential candidates and Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, a goal that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be reached. What’s more important is that Secret Service spokesman Robert K. Hoback refused the request made by the petition, saying “Only authorized law enforcement personnel working in conjunction with the Secret Service for a particular event may carry a firearm inside of the protected site.”
Despite the petition dying before reaching its goal, it still sparked plenty of discussion about gun control, which is what petition creator The Hypernationalist claims was the point. Through interviews with Newsweek and CBS, The Hypernationalist revealed that he is a liberal gun control advocate. He stated that the petition is a piece of satire, saying “[advocates of open carry] should have guns at their convention because I think that’s the only way to live in accordance with the principles they have tried to make us all live with.”
So, the petition doesn’t look like it’s reaching its goal, isn’t going to succeed anyway, and wasn’t even created seriously. Why does this matter, then? There are silly change.org petitions made every day. What matters about this petition is that people on both sides took it seriously.
Yes, it’s probably not a good idea to have guns at a convention where Trump threatens that his fans will riot if he isn’t the nominee. It’s absurd that presidential candidates and the Secret Service had to release statements on the topic. I had a completely different outline for this article that I had to ditch at the last minute because I didn’t realize the petition was fake. There are plenty of news and opinion pieces taking this petition seriously.
What’s most telling about this petition isn’t the number of supporters, many of whom seem to be sassy gun control advocates commenting that they hope the Republicans all shoot each other at the convention, but that the whole ordeal doesn’t seem out of the ordinary. I didn’t have trouble believing for even a minute that Republicans would want guns at their convention, and there probably are some people who signed and commented on the petition seriously, but this petition reveals how broken and bipolar our current political rhetoric is.
This election cycle’s rhetoric has been extremely volatile, mostly centering around hot-button topics like gun control and Donald Trump’s candidacy. Many candidates, to differentiate themselves as “more liberal” or “more conservative” than their opponents, have pushed further and further to opposite ends of the spectrum, leaving little room in the middle for a legitimate discussion and fusion of ideas. Of course, this isn’t news. Obama noted this as one of his biggest regrets in his last State of the Union address. George Washington warned us about this hundreds of years ago.
What can we do, then? The ideal would be for multiple smaller parties to exist for people at different places on the political spectrum. Of course, at this point, the Republican vs Democrat rhetoric is so entrenched in our politics and culture that third parties don’t have much of a chance unless the big two fall apart or there’s a surprisingly large social movement.
The only thing we can do at this point is vote and discuss. I urge everyone reading this to branch out, speak to those ignorant fools in the other party and legitimately discuss your viewpoints. Even more important is that everyone researches candidates on the local and national level, and becomes an informed voter who knows what candidates stand for and is willing to keep them accountable during their terms. I realize that this is a large request, but if we want to see a change in our political environment and discourse, it will have to start from the bottom.