Cleveland officials have said they will uphold the right of protesters at the Republican National Convention to openly carry guns – even though water guns have been banned.
Speaking to reporters ahead of next week’s GOP convention, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson implied he disagreed with the decision. But he then went on to add that he was bound by Ohio state laws to allow individuals to bring lethal firearms to the event if they chose to do so.
City legislature bans individuals from carrying a wide variety of harmful or potentially harmful items across downtown Cleveland. That list includes water guns, toy guns, aerosol cans, tennis balls and rope. Yet because of the state’s crystal-clear rules protecting an individual’s right to openly carry a legally-owned firearm in public, city officials are now powerless to stop RNC protesters from bringing weapons to the event.
The Secret Service has been able to override that ban within a tiny security perimeter around Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention is being held. That means delegates and attendees of the event itself will not be permitted to bring weapons inside of the venue.
Mayor Jackson has consistently been a sharp critic of Ohio’s open carry laws, arguing they endanger the lives of urban residents.
When the Ohio Supreme Court backed legislation that effectively blocked Cleveland from passing tougher gun laws in 2010, Jackson argued that lawmakers were ‘taking power away‘ from local voters.
“Even though we’ve made progress in Cleveland, gun violence is a very real threat that we face, particularly our young people,” he said. “Our inability to enforce laws that are right for our city flies in the face of home rule and takes power away the people at the local level.”
On Wednesday, Jackson echoed that sentiment – but added that the decision to allow weapons at next week’s RNC event was out of his hands.
“Our intent is to follow the law,” he said at a press conference. “And if the law says you can have open carry, that’s what it says. Whether I agree with it or not is another issue.”
Jackson was joined at Wednesday’s press conference by city police Chief Calvin Williams, who added that he would also prefer that individuals were barred from carrying weapons at the Republican National Convention.
Yet Williams also conceded that city police had no power to prevent firearms from appearing at the event.
“It’s the law in this state,” he said. “As police chief, I’m bound to uphold the law in this state.”
The controversy has risen just days after five Dallas police officers were gunned down by an individual with a high-power rifle at a protest against recent police killings.
As a direct result, multiple groups have now indicated they will be bringing legally-owned firearms as part of their previously planned protests outside of Quicken Loans Arena next week.
On Tuesday, New Black Panther Party chairman Hashim Nzinga told Reuters that members of the group would indeed be exercising their second amendment rights at the event.
“If it is an open state to carry, we will exercise our second amendment rights because there are other groups threatening to be there that are threatening to do harm to us,” he said. “If that state allows us to bear arms, the Panthers and the others who can legally bear arms will bear arms.”
A radical group known as the Oath Keepers have also told reporters that they will be attending the convention armed.
Cleveland officials have already promised the city will be bolstering security operations in the run up to next week’s event. Event planners have also added that resources from city, state and federal authorities have all been pledged in order to ensure the convention runs as safely and smoothly as possible.
[Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images]