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BYO handgun? GOP convention could be the next gun rights battleground

July's Republican National Convention will be held in Ohio, an open carry state, in an arena that forbids 'weapons of any kind.' 

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    A screenshot of the Change.org petition arguing for open carry at the Republican National Convention in Ohio taken at 1:50 p.m. EDT on Mar. 26.
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More than 20,000 people have signed a petition to allow the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention this July.

The convention site, the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, does not currently allow "firearms and other weapons of any kind ... including pepper spray, pocket knives and/or blades of any kind" on the premises, though Ohio is one of 31 states that allows the open carry of firearms without a permit or license. 

The petition declares that such a policy is "a direct affront to the Second Amendment and puts all attendees at risk." 

The petition was launched Monday, March 21 with a goal of 5,000 signatures, which it reached by Thursday. As of Saturday afternoon that number had grown to over 22,000.

Those arguing for open carry at the RNC are using similar rhetoric to those who have recently argued for the elimination of gun-free zones and for concealed carry on all college campuses – including private institutions. The concept follows the “good guy with a gun” adage, believing that more well-armed citizens in an area will discourage dangerous and criminal behavior with firearms.

Quoting a recent speech from Wayne LaPierre – the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association – the petition calls gun-free zones "the worst and most dangerous of all lies."

It argues that because Cleveland is consistently ranked one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in America, "forcing attendees to leave their firearms at home [puts] tens of thousands of people at risk."

Similar discourse was used by lawmakers in West Virginia who recently voted to become the seventh US state to allow permit-less concealed carry of a firearm.

But not everyone believes in the “good guy with a gun” model. Critics argue that more armed civilians leads to more accidental deaths. In an opinion piece following the Paris attacks last fall, Senior Chief Petty Officer (Ret.) James Hatch argued that “being the good guy when the bullets start flying is very difficult."

The special operations veteran with 25 years of military experience called it "a fallacy" that an "everyday gun owner can be expected to make all the right choices in a dangerous, fast-moving situation like a mass shooting with high-powered weapons."

As the Republican National Convention draws nearer, and the number of signatures on the Petition for Open Carry continues to rise, Cleveland may become the stage for the next major gun rights debate in the United States.

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