Last week’s Republican convention proved that the Second Amendment works. A major push to limit gun rights failed, and citizens carried arms openly in Cleveland outside the convention — including at protests — with no problems. Americans weren’t allowed to enjoy their constitutional rights without a fight, however. Before the convention, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams lobbied to suspend open-carry rights downtown, saying, “The fewer guns, the better.” This appeal was despite the Buckeye State being one of 45 states where open-carry of firearms is guaranteed by law.
The city’s police union also pushed for a gun ban. Ohio Gov. John Kasich “could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional at this point,” said Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association. “I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this (Republican National Convention) is over.”
Kasich resisted efforts to get him to abrogate the Constitution. “Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested,” he explained.
Major news organizations across the country cautioned that the sky was falling because of legal gun carriers, with many editorials illogically tying law-abiding citizens to future mass murder.
“The people vowing to swagger with their guns in Cleveland will, in a literal sense, be law-abiding,” editorialized The New York Times. “But their self-indulgence, backed by timorous politicians, can only make it easier for the next killer to obtain a military-style weapon in what amounts to an open market for mass mayhem.”
All the panicked warnings amounted to a big misfire. Chief Williams later admitted that open-carry wasn’t a problem, noting that “nobody’s been arrested or has challenged the things we asked them to do.” Part of the explanation for the surprise passivity is that media hysterics focused more on those law-abiding folks wanting to protect themselves instead of on real threats.
There were legitimate safety concerns surrounding the convention, but not related to law-abiding citizens packing heat. The acceleration of terrorist attacks on soft targets globally, the shooting of police nationally, and the fact that the FBI named Cleveland as the fifth most dangerous city in America last year all provided good reasons to worry about being in crowds.
But if anything, these real threats of violence provided more justification for those downtown to be able to protect themselves, not less. That events turned out calmer than expected can at least partly be attributed to the deterrent effect that is common when would-be criminals know their potential victims might be armed and able to protect themselves.
Other than minor floor debates over insignificant parliamentary procedure and Ted Cruz’s non-endorsement of nominee Donald Trump, the GOP’s 2016 convention, at least from the law enforcement perspective, went off without a hitch. The Cleveland police’s biggest worry ended up being about a sticker distributed that caused skin irritation, not guns.
“There were a total of 24 arrests in Cleveland,” Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer told me. “For all the hype about trying to suspend Second Amendment rights, law enforcement did an amazing job ensuring Cleveland was the safest convention in history.”
It’s a gun advocate cliché that an armed society is a polite society. Cleveland showed that an armed convention can also be a safe one.