More than 43,800 people have demanded that the GOP allow open-carry firearms at its July convention in Cleveland — but they're not all gun enthusiasts.
The now-viral petition appeared on Change.org one week ago, petitioning the Republican National Convention, all three GOP candidates, and the National Rifle Association, among others, to suspend the Quicken Loans Arena's ban on firearms. Signers want the arena, the site of the party's July 18-21 convention, to grant attendees their "basic God-given rights to carry handguns or assault weapons in public." Although Ohio has open-carry laws, private businesses and schools may ban firearms.
The petition quotes Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on their gun-rights views, particularly the belief that gun-free zones create a target for mass shooters. The writer, who identifies himself as Len Davies from Spokane, Wash., highlights Cleveland's violent crime rates and the risk of an attack by Islamic State.
"Without the right to protect themselves, those at the Quicken Loans Arena will be sitting ducks, utterly helpless against evil-doers, criminals or others who wish to threaten the American way of life," Mr. Davies writes, calling on candidates and the RNC to prove their opposition to "Barack HUSSEIN Obama's 'gun-free zones'" and temporarily suspend the Arena's weapons ban, or to relocate the event to a more gun-friendly location.
"As the National Rifle Association has made clear, 'gun-free zones' such as the Quicken Loans Arena are 'the worst and most dangerous of all lies,'" the petition says.
It was practically too good to be true, many online thought — and not because they'd love to bring their firearms to Cleveland.
One Twitter user compared the petition to "A Modest Proposal," Jonathan Swift's 18th century masterstroke satire:
Several congratulated the author for highlighting the disconnect between popular GOP support for open carry, including in spaces such as churches and schools, and the reluctance to put politicians at risk of open carry gone wrong.
The best thing about the open carry petition is that it literally does nothing except call on the RNC to live by their stated values.— Lew (@LewSOS) March 27, 2016
Dozens of Twitter fans applauded @hyperationalist, the Twitter account of a blog claiming responsibility for the petition, for Grade A "trolling," the typically despised art of intentionally angering someone online, particularly by pretending to hold a particular opinion.
And based on @hyperationalist's "liked" tweets, he or she is enjoying the compliments.
But the main clue about the person's intent may be his or her own message from March 23, now buried in the Twitter feed.
GOP officials, who have said little about the petition, would likely welcome news that it didn't originate with real open-carry fans, particularly single-issue voters.
On March 24, the Ohio Republican Party told the Akron Beacon Journal it was not aware of the petition. A spokesman for the NRC told the paper that the Secret Service would coordinate with local and federal law enforcement to handle convention security.
Mr. Trump – who in January pledged he would ban gun-free school zones "on my first day," calling them "bait" to "a sicko" – told CNN he wants to "read the fine print" on the petition before giving an opinion.
In mid-March, the frontrunner predicted riots if he falls a few votes short of a delegate majority, which would create the opportunity for a contested convention.
Security for the event will include $50 million in federal funding, after its designation as a National Special Security Event. The city is seeking permission to purchase 2,000 sets of riot gear, 300 bicycles, and 25 sets of tactical armor, according to Cleveland.com.
If the open-carry petition doesn't go forward, attendees may want to look into a parody petition that, with only two supporters, could use some help: "Allow Open Carry of Norse Weaponry at the RNC Convention in July," begun by "Thor Odinson."