PLANNING TO visit the 1.7-square-mile area in downtown Cleveland where many of the events and protests connected to the Republican National Convention will be held next week? Be sure not to take tennis balls, metal-tipped umbrellas or canned goods, which will be banned — but no need to leave behind your AR-15 or other guns. Those will be allowed under Ohio’s open-carry laws.
That a can of tuna fish is deemed more dangerous than military-style weaponry is indicative of the irrationality of U.S. gun policy. Don’t expect a fix anytime soon. The Republican-led House of Representatives is going on its summer vacation without making a genuine effort — let alone taking any action — to inject sense into the nation’s gun laws.
Cleveland officials are preparing for large numbers of protesters. Some — including the New Black Panther Party and a group of current and former members of the military called the Oath Keepers — have said they plan to carry weapons. No guns will be allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena or within the perimeter controlled by the Secret Service, but Ohio’s open-carry laws will allow those who legally own guns to take them into the event zone.
The prospect of a politically charged environment in which there are people armed to the teeth has rightly given pause to some. “The last thing in the world we need is anybody walking around here with AR-15s strapped to their back,” Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told the New York Times. Last week in Dallas, while five police officers were being shot to death and seven others wounded, police were hampered by confusion over which people with guns were suspects to be apprehended and which were protesters who had brought their guns because misguided Texas law allowed them. “There’s been the presumption,” said Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown, “that a good guy with a gun is the best way to resolve some of these things. Well, we don’t know who the good guy is versus who the bad guy is if everybody starts shooting.”
In October in Colorado, a neighbor spotted someone carrying a weapon and called 911. Because the behavior was legal under state law, police did not respond immediately. The gunman shot three people. Forty states, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, allow people to openly carry shotguns and rifles (including assault rifles) in public without a permit or safety training, and 30 states allow people to openly carry handguns without a permit or safety training. The gun lobby agenda of “guns everywhere, no questions asked” is extreme and irresponsible, but it has been skillfully sold.
Consider how House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) responded when asked Tuesday about the Dallas police chief’s statement about the difficulty that open-carry laws create for law enforcement. “What we should be focused on right now are solutions,” the speaker said. “I think what we should be focused on is listening to people in communities who have done a good job of merging law enforcement with the communities so that these kinds of problems don’t occur.” You get the picture: Let’s talk about anything except the obvious and inescapable need for gun control.
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