Sam Kurek is carrying his gun out in the open at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week because it’s his right and it’s the law, he told Global News.
Wearing a t-shirt reading “Hillary Clinton for Prison 2016” and a handgun strapped to his right thigh, he said he’s not going out of his way to “make a political statement.”
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“It’s to defend myself and just to show we’re not bad people,” he said at a rally for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
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Kurek told Global News he has to carry his firearm openly in Ohio because of the law. He usually carries it concealed back in his home state of Pennsylvania — where the Democrats will hold their convention in Philadelphia next week.
Kurek said his concealed carry license in Pennsylvania didn’t reciprocate to Ohio, but the Ohio attorney general’s office says on its website:
“Ohio recognizes the concealed handgun license of any non-resident who has a valid concealed handgun license from any other state, regardless of whether Ohio has entered into a reciprocity agreement with that state.”
When asked about an attempt to have the state’s open carry law suspended for the duration of the convention, he said that was a “dangerous conversation to have.”
“That’s how a lot of our rights get chipped away, out of fear,” he said. “If they can do it temporarily, they can do it permanently.”
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Kurek said he has sympathy for police, especially given the deadly police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, but he believes it’s his constitutional right to carry his weapon.
“They took an oath when they protect the constitution when they became a police officer,” he said. “It’s a little disappointing that they want to suspend constitutional rights.”
The union representing police in Cleveland wanted Ohio governor (and former GOP presidential hopeful) John Kasich to suspend the open carry law because they were concerned in the wake of the police shootings and heated protests over the recent police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
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Stephen Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, told CNN it is “irresponsible” for people to bring their guns to the convention.
“You can’t go into a crowded theatre and scream fire. And that’s exactly what they’re doing by bringing those guns down there,” Loomis said Sunday. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
And that doesn’t mean police want rights of gun owners to be taken away.
“As a police officer I am very much in favor of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but in a situation like this I don’t see what good it does to open carry,” Bill Morris, a police officer and Trump supporter, told Reuters. “You don’t go walking around Washington, D.C., with a rifle, and I don’t see why you should do it here.”
In the end, Kasich said there was nothing he could do about the law.
While guns aren’t allowed inside the Quicken Loans Arena, which is considered a secure zone, guns are allowed inside a 2.7-kilometre perimeter surrounding the “event zone.” Things like toy guns and even tennis balls, however, are banned from that same area.
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With reporting from Global News Washington Bureau Chief Jackson Proskow in Cleveland.