The Argument for Carry at the GOP Convention Is Weak

by Charles C. W. Cooke

TIME reports:

A petition that calls for firearms to be openly carried at the Republican convention this summer has so far garnered over 40,000 signatures.

Ohio, where the convention will be held in July, is an open-carry state. But the venue for the convention, the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, does not allow weapons on the premises.

The petition, which was posted last Monday on Change.org, says this policy “is a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk.” As of the morning of March 28 it had received 41,574 signatures.

I think that this petition is misguided. Why? Three reasons:

First: There is no Second Amendment violation here. The Second Amendment is a check on government, not on private entities. The Quicken Loans Arena is owned by a private corporation. If the arena’s rule is no firearms, then those who wish to use it must abide by that rule. And if they don’t like it, they can go somewhere else.

Now, as Jim Geraghty pointed out earlier, there is a government angle here: The U.S. Code, Geraghty notes, allows the Secret Service to “preclude firearms from entering sites visited by [] protectees.” But, because the arena already has its own rules in place, we don’t need to reach the question of whether that’s legally acceptable (it almost certainly is). The arena is the property of its owners. Its owners gets to set the policy.

Second: As absurd as the idea of “gun free zones” is in a country with this many firearms, there are certain circumstances in which it is prudent to try to limit the presence of guns. It has always been ridiculous to hear progressives predict that widespread concealed carry would lead to frustrated shoppers shooting each other in the supermarket or to irritated customers opening fire at the bank; and it has been hilarious to witness the freakout we see each year when the press learns that NRA members may pack heat at their annual convention. But a political convention strikes me as being less akin to those examples, and more akin to, say, the circumstances that obtain at a polling place. And the argument against carry strikes me as being less “people will shoot each other for no reason” and more “we need to make sure that the results aren’t marred by charges of intimidation.” From the early days of the American Republic, certain “time and place” restrictions have been imposed upon the right to bear arms, especially when the integrity of democracy was perceived to be at stake. Delaware’s 1776 Constitution, for example, made clear that:

To prevent any violence or force being used at the said elections, no person shall come armed to any of them, and no muster of the militia shall be made on that day; nor shall any battalion or company give in their votes immediately succeeding each other, if any other voter, who offers to vote, objects thereto; nor shall any battalion or company, in the pay of the continent, or of this or any other State, be suffered to remain at the time and place of holding the said elections, nor within one mile of the said places respectively, for twenty-four hours before the opening said elections, nor within twenty-four hours after the same are closed, so as in any manner to impede the freely and conveniently carrying on the said election: Provided always, That every elector may, in a peaceable and orderly manner, give in his vote on the said day of election.

This does not strike me as an unconscionable “affront” to the right to keep and bear arms, nor as a rule that is likely to “puts all attendees at risk,” especially given that security will already be tight in Cleveland.

Third: Given the brazen manner in which Donald Trump has encouraged physical violence against those who have protested at his rallies — “next time, we might have to kill him,” one Trump fan warned a man he sucker punched — there is pretty much no incentive for the Quicken Loans Arena team to be generous here. Generally speaking, I am of the view that trying to stop shootings by putting up signs is the most abject of human folly. But with this guy? As is the case with most of the pillars of free and civil society, liberalized carry laws presume a certain degree of responsibility and trust — a degree that has, alas, not been on display from Trump and the more excitable among his followers. Why, exactly, would the venue’s management take the risk?

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