The satirical petition that went viral last month demanding that the Republican party live up to its pro-gun rhetoric and allow openly carried firearms at its nominating convention has drawn a counterpunch. And unlike the call for more firearms at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, whose origins could only be traced to an anonymous “liberal,” this latest provocation is the handiwork of a prominent gun-rights group.
The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, an organization chaired by Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb, is circulating a call to ban armed security — including law enforcement officers and Secret Service agents — from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The Wells Fargo Center, which will host the convention in July, already bars civilians from carrying firearms inside.
“Gun owners are demanding that the Democratic party practice what it preaches,” it reads. “If a political party believes that guns do not make us safer, they should set an example by rejecting any and all forms of armed security at their convention.”
The petition, posted on the website of Gottlieb’s organization, does not make known the number of its signatories. (The Change.org petition asking for open carry at the RNC garnered more than 50,000 supporters.)
The petition follows a line of criticism often lobbed at gun-reform advocates by pro-gun partisans: that Democratic and progressive leaders’ opposition to looser gun laws is belied by the gun-carrying security that protects them, particularly at large public events. From this point of view, Democrats are “privileged anti-gunners [who] enjoy the protection of armed security,” as the group’s petition puts it, while everyday Americans have only their own guns to protect themselves.
“The hypocrisy is overwhelming,” the petition reads.
The argument makes for some tart rhetoric, but it stands on shaky logical ground. While it’s true that many Democrats and gun violence prevention advocates oppose the expansion of guns into public spaces via concealed carry and open carry laws, that position is generally paired with support for designating specific trained gun-wielding professionals with maintaining the common peace — there’s no widespread movement to strip police officers of their service weapons, for instance. To gun control proponents, entrusting the state with the use of force is the best way to ensure force is applied appropriately, individual abuses notwithstanding: Police officers are trained to use firearms, de-escalate conflict, and apply the law, while the Secret Service and private security services specialize in the protection of prominent public figures who are more likely to be the target of violent threats than private citizens. The typical concealed weapon holders and open carriers, by contrast, don’t usually have to go through any such vetting or training. In many states, they just have to pass a background check.
In fact, a common criticism of open carry and the proliferation of concealed carry is that these efforts could make it harder for armed police or security to do their jobs. In Texas, after the state passed a law permitting the open carry of handguns, a police chief said, “It is going to be difficult for the beat cop to know who should have a gun, who shouldn’t have a gun, and frankly there are people out there who shouldn’t own guns.” The chief called for cooler heads to prevail when considering the place of guns in public life — notably, not complete disarmament.
[Photo: CQ Roll Call via AP Images]