An online petition to allow firearms to be openly carried at July’s Republican convention quickly garnered 51,000 signatures. Was its pro-gun preaching satire—as those who praised its author’s trolling believe? Or was it a sincere attempt at Second Amendment advocacy?
“Theoretically,” your typical troll “would be trying to accomplish the opposite of what they say they’re trying to accomplish,” said Jim Ryan, the petition’s author. But that’s not exactly what he’s doing: “If Second Amendment advocates had rallied to this cause, and maybe they have … and [made] this happen somehow, that would be absolutely fine with me.”
That’s because while he supports stricter gun control, his petition aimed to provoke gun-rights advocates to follow through on the policies they so ardently preach. It offers an implicit, but provocative, question: If many Republicans support open carry in other public places—and it’s legal in Ohio, where the convention is being held—shouldn’t they support it at their own convention? For Ryan, it’s a no-brainer: “I don’t think they should be immune in their own settings from the policies they want to subject the rest of us to.”
At face value, the week-old petition on Change.org advocates allowing Republican convention-goers to be able to carry their guns freely during the Cleveland meeting. Though Ohio is an open-carry state, the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will be held, explicitly prohibits firearms and other weapons. The petition’s rhetoric is recognizable to followers of the eternal American debate over guns: Invocations of the Second Amendment, the sanctity of the Constitution, and the threat of the Islamic State are all familiar. It also includes several “nudges” that hint at exaggeration—for example, an emphasis on “HUSSEIN” in a mention of President Obama’s full name might’ve tipped off savvy readers.