Later this year, the Republican National Convention at which Mitt Romney will be officially nominated will be held in Tampa, Florida. Given how unpopular Republican policies are, and given the new strength in the Occupy protest movement, it’s expected that many political demonstrations will be held outside the convention.
In order to prevent violence at the protests, local ordinances have been created that ban people in Tampa from carrying glass bottles, sticks, and toy water guns. However, people will be allowed to carry concealed guns – guns that fire real bullets. If you’re caught with a bottle of old-fashioned Coca-Cola, you could be thrown in jail, but if you pull a handgun out of a hidden holster, the police will leave you alone.
Bob Buckhorn, the mayor of Tampa, asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to create an exception, for downtown Tampa, to a statewide executive order that allows for the carrying of concealed guns. Rick Scott refused, writing to Buckhorn: “It is unclear how disarming law-abiding citizens would better protect them from the dangers and threats posed by those who would flout the law. It is at just such times that the constitutional right of self defense is most precious and must be protected from government overreach.”
Consider what Governor Scott is proposing as a plan for the GOP National Convention: When protesters start breaking the law, that’s when people secretly carrying guns should spring into action. Scott is suggesting that the protesters outside of the Republican National Convention this year may need to be shot, describing anti-Republican protests as just the sort of situation that concealed firearms are called for. The Governor isn’t merely stating that the second amendment must always apply, while hoping that no one brings a gun to the protests. He’s encouraging gun owners who don’t agree with the protests to arrive in response, ready to use their guns against the protesters.
An odd thing about Governor Scott’s letter is that, while he’s encouraging the use of guns against protesters, and demanding that the second amendment right to carry guns be protected, he doesn’t seem to care at all about whether other weapons are prohibited. The ordinance against sticks and glass bottles is in place because of concerns that they could be used as weapons. But, as weapons, they would be constitutionally protected objects.
The second amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It does not mention guns specifically, but weapons as a general category. The idea of “arms” has always carried with it the inclusion of improvised devices of violence. People can be thought of as arming themselves with sticks and stones, with umbrellas, forks, chains, and all sorts of objects.
It seems quite clear that, if the second amendment does not apply only to militias, but to individuals as well, that it must protect the right of individuals to carry any object as a weapon. There’s no justification in the second amendment for giving guns a special protected status that no other weapon enjoys. So, if carrying guns at protests is to be given constitutional protection, so should carrying sticks and glass bottles.
Yet, Rick Scott won’t stand up for the right to bear weapons that aren’t guns. Why? Probably, it has something to do with the fact that there is no group of lobbyists and political action committees that give large amounts of money to political candidates who defend the right to carry sticks and glass bottles. Gun lobbyists, on the other hand, are quite powerful, and carry a lot of cash.
Even on the level of gun rights, though, Rick Scott and his Republican colleagues aren’t consistent. They support the right of citizens to show up and intimidate protesters with guns, but they won’t support the right of people to carry guns within the Republican National Convention itself. The Republicans have created a ban on carrying guns within the building where the Republican National Convention will take place – and Governor Rick Scott supports that ban on guns.
Why? If guns really make people more secure, rather than presenting a security risk, and if Republican really support the constitutional right to carry guns, why won’t they allow people attending the Convention to bring guns? Why won’t they encourage attendees to bring guns, to make Mitt Romney more safe? It looks like the Republican Party only wants to have guns around at other people’s events, not their own.