Donald Trump provided a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican National Convention to a National Rifle Association executive, who proceeded to warn that Hillary Clinton would take away guns from Americans like Micah Naziri and James Campbell.
A few hours before the NRA’s Christopher Cox took the stage at the Quicken Loan Center, Naziri and Campbell exercised their Second Amendment rights by walking through downtown Cleveland, with AR-15-style assault weapons slung over their shoulders.
Naziri’s weapon was loaded with a 40-round magazine. Campell’s magazine held 30 rounds. Both guns were, the men assured me, fully loaded.
Cleveland is exceedingly well-armed for the Republican National Convention. Cops from as far away as California patrol the streets. Officers are on foot, on bikes and horses, and in cruisers. There are Secret Service officers, and snipers on the tops of building. And there are Naziri and Campbell.
Ohio is an open-carry state, meaning the Legislature approved a statute allowing anyone who is legally authorized to own a gun to carry it in public. Openly, on city streets.
After the police murders in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, sought to add a little sanity to the situation by urging Gov. John Kasich to suspend civilians’ right to openly carry weapons during the convention.
Kasich could do nothing.
“Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested,” Kasich’s press secretary Emmalee Kalmbach said in a statement.
“What they think of it isn’t really my concern,” Naziri said of the police, though cops on the street didn’t seem too concerned. Openly carrying guns evidently is routine in Ohio. Cops stood nearby. One even nodded as if they were brothers in arms. None of it gave me a sense of security.
In his speech Tuesday night, Cox elicited cheers when he told delegates that Trump is a lifetime member of the NRA. The issue, he said, is simple: “A Hillary Clinton Supreme Court means your right to own a firearm is gone.”
Later on Tuesday evening, Donnie Trump, Trump’s oldest son, hit the pro-gun theme in his speech, “She wants to appoint judges who will abolish the Second Amendment.”
The 2016 Republican platform, the document that spells out the vision of Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, makes clear that the GOP fully embraces the NRA’s absolutist view of the Second Amendment.
“We support constitutional-carry statutes and salute the states that have passed them,” the platform says. “We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle.”
The term, “common modern rifle,” is a gauzy way of saying military-style assault weapons, which ought to be reserved for the military, and are the types of weapons used to kill police in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“We also oppose any effort to deprive individuals of their right to keep and bear arms without due process of law,” the platform declares.
This includes Naziri and Campbell. Naziri, of Yellow Springs, Ohio, wore sunglasses, a red tie, white shirt and a skull cap. Campbell, of Dayton, Ohio, was dressed a dark-blue kaftan with white brocade, and a sticker that reads, “Make Out Not War,” distributed by the radical women’s group, CODEPINK.
Naziri said he and Campbell were carrying their assault weapons as part of a “militant anti-fascist statement against the policies that Trump has proposed.”
“Trump’s proposed policies including door-to-door roundups of 11 million people; including religious tests for citizenship, religious IDs, things of that nature, are all completely illegal, unconstitutional and fascist in nature,” Naziri told me.
What if Trump were to win and follow through on his campaign pledges to deport people and impose religious tests on certain people?
“If Trump were to suspend the Constitution,” Naziri said, “and do police-state roundups using an unprecedented scale of police-state force that has no parallel in American history … there are literally thousands of people who would resist.”
In his speech, Cox asked the delegates to imagine a mother home alone with a small baby, when a three-time loser just out of prison breaks through the door, an image tailored to stoke paranoia.
Cox, slick lobbyist that he is, would not talk about a guy in a skull cap or a kaftan, walking around city streets with AR-15-style assault rifles.
Naziri and Campbell meant no harm to anyone. There were simply exercising their constitutional rights. But if Trump prevails in November, and follows through on his promises by knocking on certain people’s doors, Naziri and Campbell would be ready.