Cleveland Police
Credit: Tim Evanson/Wikimedia Commons

The Cleveland police union president is so concerned about people carrying guns (legally) around the Republican National Convention that he doesn’t even care if it violates the Ohio constitution to deny them their rights for the next few days.

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Hours after the head of Cleveland’s police union pleaded with the governor to suspend Ohio’s open-carry laws during the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump’s spokesperson told ThinkProgress she is “not nervous at all” that people are walking around the city with assault weapons.

“I am recommending that people follow the law,” Katrina Pierson said Sunday when asked whether she believes people should arm themselves in the convention zone. Under Ohio law, residents over 21 years old who have permits can openly carry guns in public.

In light of the shooting and death of three police officers in Baton Rouge on Sunday, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association asked for an emergency suspension of the state’s open-carry law for the duration of the Republican National Convention.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. [John] Kasich requesting assistance from him,” union president Stephen Loomis told CNN. “He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point.” Kasich denied the union’s request.

Just try imagining yourself as the wife or son or daughter of a Cleveland law enforcement officer who has to report to work for the convention. How do you think you would feel about the constitutional right for people to carry semiautomatic rifles and handguns into that zone while the country is experiencing a trend of police being targeted for death?

But Governor Kasich is correct that he can’t just “arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state law as suggested” by the police union.

On the other hand, the police don’t have to agree to patrol an area if they think it represents an unreasonable risk of death or injury. They could essentially go on strike and see what the governor thinks about what’s permissible in those circumstances. I know that if someone in my family was expected to patrol the convention, I’d be relieved if they refused to report for duty. I don’t see this particular constitutional provision as being something worth dying for.

Of course, police officers aren’t the only ones who should feel uneasy, since the convention is obviously a prime terrorism target. You don’t need a refrigerator truck if you can just stroll right into the area with a loaded AR-15. The Trump campaign can recommend that “people follow the law” all they want, but that won’t keep the Republican delegates, the media, the police, or the protestors safe. The idea that people will be safer with all those “good guys with guns” watching out for any “bad guys with guns” is ludicrous.

Just imagine what will happen if the Black Lives Matters protestors decide to come packing heat.

Thomas Answeeney, a 25-year-old who traveled to Cleveland from Buffalo, New York to protest against Trump, pointed out what he views as hypocrisy in enforcement of the state’s gun laws.

“Open carry is apparently a very two-sided thing, because we can’t open carry,” he told ThinkProgress while marching through the streets of Cleveland on Sunday with Black Lives Matter supporters and other activists.

“If anyone here at this demonstration against Trump was openly carrying, we’d be on the fucking floor with cuffs, at best,” he continued. “I think it’s disgusting… It’s always a double standard.”

Even if the law were equitably applied and enforced, a bunch of trigger-happy vigilantes with guns aren’t going to be too relaxed about black anti-police violence protestors who are heavily armed. The potential for a shootout is palpable, and there will be plenty of bystanders.

That we’re willing to put up with this level of known and obvious risk when we go to such extremes to intercept phone calls and email, to inconvenience people at airports, and violate our constitutional principles in order to keep people indefinitely detained…?

We’ve become a nation of bedwetters except for when it comes to letting people walk around with guns that can kill dozens in a few minutes. We’re absurdly brave about that scenario, even when we see first graders mowed down in their classrooms or entire nightclubs decimated in the time it takes police to respond to a 911 call.

If the Cleveland police don’t want to work under these circumstances, I can certainly see why. They’ll probably do their duty anyway, and they deserve a lot of credit for that. But I hope they continue to be allies in the effort to get some sanity into our gun laws. Their jobs are dangerous enough without these absurd rules.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at