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Ohio's open-carry gun law comes under fire ahead of GOP convention

The head of Cleveland's police union wants Ohio's governor to suspend a law that allows people to openly carry firearms during the Republican National Convention.
Photo by John Minchillo/AP

The head of Cleveland's police union has asked Ohio Governor John Kasich to temporarily suspend a state law that allows people to openly carry weapons during the four-day Republican National Convention that starts on Monday.

The request follows deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, and comes amid heightened concerns that the RNC will be a target for extremists of many kinds.


During an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Association, called on Kasich to declare a state of emergency and suspend open-carry laws in the wake of the shooting in Baton Rouge that left three officers dead and three others wounded. Unlike the Dallas shooting, where police said the gunman told them he was trying to kill white officers, it's still unclear whether police in Baton Rouge were deliberately targeted in the incident on Sunday

Related: Everything we know so far about the shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge

"Anybody that has an open-carry gun, we are going to look at and we are going to look at them very, very hard," Loomis said. "Somebody's gotta do something. What we have now is completely irresponsible."

He blamed President Barack Obama's responses to the recent officer-involved shootings of black men and the media's coverage of the incidents for inciting violence against cops.

"The president of the United States has blood on his hands and it will not be able to be washed off," Loomis said. "How the hell did we become the bad guys in this country?"

'Somebody's gotta do something. What we have now is completely irresponsible.'

Loomis is reportedly in the process of putting the request together to submit it to the governor's office. In anticipation, Kasich's office put out a statement explaining that he does not have the authority to suspend state laws.


"Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested," a Kasich spokesperson wrote.

"I don't care what the legal precedent is," Loomis later told Reuters. "I feel strongly that leadership needs to stand up and defend these police officers."

Ohio's open-carry laws could make it difficult for authorities to determine who does and doesn't pose a security threat at the RNC. In the chaotic aftermath of the Dallas shooting earlier this month, which left five police officers dead and six injured, a protester carrying an unloaded assault rifle was misidentified by media and law enforcement as a suspect.

Related: Doctors want Congress to declare gun deaths a public health crisis

On Sunday, three people showed up in downtown Cleveland's Public Square to protest in favor of open-carry laws. Two attendees had guns — one assault rifle and one handgun. The three ralliers were accompanied by around 30 police officers and 40 members of the media.

Steve Thacker, who lives just outside Cleveland, told reporters that he traveled into the city just to make his views on open-carry heard and to "demonstrate [his] second amendment rights."

Openly carrying in downtown Cleveland — Olivia Becker (@oliviaLbecker)July 17, 2016

One bystander, Hyacinth Raven, who lives downtown, told VICE News that "open carry isn't something new for Ohio," and that she was concerned about outsiders causing trouble during the RNC.

"I'm worried about the people who aren't from Cleveland who are coming here and bringing all their shit with them," Raven said.

Openly carrying firearms is entirely legal under federal law, and only a handful of states prohibit or restrict open-carry. California, Florida, Illinois and Washington, DC, have outright bans on carrying guns in public. New York, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey have restrictions on the kind of gun you can carry, and mandate in some cases that the gun's owner carries a permit for the weapon.

Follow Olivia Becker and Tess Owen on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker and @misstessowen