A petition seeking to allow firearms to be openly carried inside the arena for this summer's Republican National Convention is sparking debate, attracting tens of thousands of signatures in a matter of days. But is it for real? And who actually started it?
It's one of those 21st century mysteries that involves online petitions and the Twittersphere, against the backdrop of a presidential campaign that has been volatile and unpredictable.
The petition was created on change.org last week, billing itself as an "open letter" asking the Republican National Committee, the National Rifle Assn., GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, the three remaining GOP presidential candidates and Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland to allow firearms to be openly carried at the July convention.
The petition's creator was originally listed as Len Davies of Spokane, Wash. — but was switched Monday to The Hyperationalist, several days after it claimed credit on a blog that has just one entry: the change.org petition. The Hyperationalist's Twitter account says it joined in March 2011, bears a picture of Abraham Lincoln as its profile photo and describes itself as "Speaking truth to stupid since well, since now."
The petition slowly began picking up steam before really taking off over the weekend when it started to get some traction in the media. By mid-afternoon Monday, it had nearly 50,000 signatures. Those aren't historic numbers; some change.org petitions garner 500,000 or more, said Max Burns, the U.S. communications manager for the site. But he said "this was incredibly fast growing."
So is it a serious petition seeking to allow open carry inside the convention hall? For those passionate about their Second Amendment rights, the petition appeals to their belief that openly carrying a firearm wards off danger. For those who oppose it, it speaks to the fear of gun violence that takes place every day.
Burns doesn't have the answer, but said it doesn't really matter because it has sparked a conversation, lighting up change.org and Twitter with all sorts of commentary. Some called it a great idea to keep convention-goers safe; others consider it a call to arms for Second Amendment rights. Others voiced concerns about the prospect of gunfights breaking out inside the arena.
In the end it's likely to be only a theoretical question. The Secret Service, which is in charge of security at presidential conventions, says no dice. "Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event," said Robert K. Hoback, a spokesman for the Secret Service.
An email sent to The Hyperationalist by the AP was not immediately answered. Its Twitter account takes swipes at conservatives, Republicans and most especially GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Party spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski made clear the party supports the Second Amendment but will defer to the Secret Service. Candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued similar statements.
Trump, who supports making concealed carry permits valid in all 50 states, has not taken a position on the petition, saying he first wants to see its fine print.