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Editorial: Weakness of gun laws goes on display in Cleveland

Barriers divide ninth street in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, Thursday, July 14, 2016, marking the secure zone surrounding the site of next week's Republican National Convention. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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On the streets outside a national political convention, citizens should have the right to give thundering voice to issues they care about. But how free will any protesters feel to shout out their minds at the Republican National Convention next week if others who disagree take advantage of Ohio’s lax laws to tote powerful weapons outside the hall?

Although many protesters no doubt will show up in Cleveland, we wonder how many will quietly stay home, unnerved at the thought of marching amid so much firepower. The chilling effect is a problem cropping up even at local community meetings across the country as more state legislatures permit people to openly carry formidable firearms.

EDITORIAL

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That’s one of many conflicts inherent in America’s nonsensical gun laws that will be on display in the run-up to the convention, which starts Monday. Here are some others:

  • Authorities in Ohio, an “open-carry state,” will allow you to bring a gun into the 1.7-square-mile area that will be home to convention-related protests and events. But you won’t be allowed to carry an umbrella with a sharp end. In what way does an umbrella — even one with a pointed tip — pose more risk than a gun? Also on the prohibited list: toy guns, aerosol cans and tennis balls. But not assault rifles.
  • The group Citizens for Trump will allow people to carry handguns at a rally it is hosting in a Cleveland park on Monday. But long guns will be banned. If guns make us safer when carried in public, as gun-rights advocates often claim, why will long guns be banned?
  • Also, Citizens for Trump will pay for private security to help the police. Why is that necessary if “good guys with guns” provide reliable support for cops, another claim by gun-rights advocates?
  • Inside the convention hall, no one other than authorized law enforcement personnel, not even delegates, will be permitted to carry guns. Why is that necessary if guns are safe enough to be carried in many public places around the nation?
  • More than 5,000 police officers are expected to be put to work when the convention begins Monday. If allowing the public to carry firearms makes us safer, why do we need more cops instead of fewer? If guns make us less safe, why are they allowed outside the convention at all?

Texas, which, like Ohio, is an open carry state, became Exhibit A for the fallacies of open carry on July 7 when Micah Johnson shot and killed five police officers and wounded nine during a protest march. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said the 30 people carrying rifles at the march made it difficult for police to identify the gunman.

“We don’t know who the good guy is vs. the bad guy when everyone starts shooting,” Brown said.

No doubt, that’s a concern high on the list for police in Cleveland, as well.

Congress hasn’t passed a gun safety law in more than 20 years, but many states have gone in the other direction, allowing guns in areas where they once were banned. Texas, for example, is scheduled to allow guns to be carried on college campuses starting Aug. 1.

Most Americans have had more than enough of the gun violence that’s become so prevalent in schools, theaters, shopping centers and nightclubs and on the streets. Just on Tuesday, two people were killed and five were wounded in Chicago shootings. But Congress ignores the assault on our communities.

If ordinary citizens speak up, in many places they must do so knowing their opponents are armed with guns. The absence of umbrellas with pointed ends is little consolation.

No matter what happens next week, the lesson of Cleveland should be we need saner gun laws.

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