What? No Second Amendment rights at the Republican National Convention?

A satirical letter in yesterday’s New York Times points out that guns will be forbidden items at the Republican convention in New York. Of course they will. But the letter-writer asks whether this means that Republicans actually think guns are dangerous, even in the hands of delegates to their own convention.

Pro-gun forces have made a considerable amount of ill-natured sport out of the fact that some gun control advocates, including entertainers, have armed bodyguards. It’s a fair point: if ordinary folks who can’t afford to hire guards must go unprotected by guns, why should the rich be different? The business about the convention turns that around: if allowing guns to be present, even in the hands of people licensed to have them, is intolerably dangerous to the President — even protected by the Secret Service — why should the rest of us have to tolerate it?

Now of course that’s not a completely reasonable position; the President is special target, and what’s justified to protect him might not be justified in an ordinary setting. But that doesn’t necessarily make it any less effective rhetorically. If the President really believes in Second Amendment rights, why shouldn’t licensed gun owners, and especially holders of concealed-carry permits, be allowed to bring guns into his convention. Or into the White House, if it comes to that?

If I recall correctly — no doubt I will be corrected if wrong — some of the new state laws making the issuance of a concealed-carry permit a matter of right for anyone who meets a limited set of criteria (known as “shall-issue” laws) also limit the right of private property owners to exclude licensed gun-carriers from entering their property while armed. If the convention were held in a state with such a law, would the operators of the convention be within their legal rights in enforcing a gun ban?

Update: A reader agrees that this is funny but thinks that Democrats would do well not to talk about it. Agreed.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: