DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK. The Republican National Convention starts in just a little over two weeks from now in Cleveland, Ohio. That city has spent more than a year planning for security around the RNC. But it's had very little to say about whether people can bring their guns to Cleveland. From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze reports.
M L SCHULTZE, BYLINE: The city of Cleveland's list of items banned from downtown during the convention includes tennis balls, grappling hooks and canned goods, but not guns. Mayor Frank Jackson offers the shortest of answers whenever he's asked about that.
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FRANK JACKSON: We follow the law. This state has a law. We follow the laws. Whatever that law is, we'll follow it.
SCHULTZE: It's legal in Ohio to openly carry a gun in most places, no license required. Those who want to pocket their guns need concealed carry permits. It's built into the Ohio constitution, which says the people have the right to bear arms for their defense and security. There's also a state law forbidding cities like Cleveland from enforcing more restrictive gun regulations, even during a political convention.
ERIC PUCILLO: Right now, I am carrying a SIG Sauer P220, which is a .45-caliber pistol.
SCHULTZE: Eric Pucillo and his brother founded Ohio Carry. Among the places it's made its case for guns as a crucial option for self-defense is on Cleveland's Public Square, a designated center of free speech during the Republican convention. Pucillo expects he'll be too busy working during convention week to head to Cleveland, but he knows others are considering showing up with their weapons and says the RNC should welcome that.
PUCILLO: Honestly, a lot of Republicans are for-carry. If you're going to be for-carry, don't be hypocritical and require no guns.
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DAVE NOICE: I am the Ohio Revised Code 9.68 compliance coordinator for Ohioans for Concealed Carry.
SCHULTZE: That's Dave Noice in a city park in the college town of Oberlin in 2013. He was one of the demonstrators - some with handguns, some with a AR-15s on their shoulders - protesting that city's ban of guns in its parks. He says the argument for a show of guns in Cleveland is part First Amendment and part Second Amendment. And given the clashes at rallies between supporters and opponents of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, Noice says it also could be practical.
NOICE: Those violent anti-Trumps, maybe they won't be as violent. These folks that are open carrying, there's a lot of stories that go around going - oh, well, those guns aren't loaded. Let me guarantee that if you have a legal gun owner out there open carrying, his guns are loaded.
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SCHULTZE: Protests at Trump rallies got Jamie Klein thinking. He's coming to Cleveland as a Pennsylvania delegate for Donald Trump and one of a handful who will be bringing their concealed carry permits and guns with them.
JAMIE KLEIN: I think it's a very pragmatic solution. And I think it's part of Republican values, American values, to be responsible for our own safety and our own well-being.
SCHULTZE: Klein knows he won't be able to bring the gun into the convention hall itself, but expects he'll carry it out to dinner. He cites concerns expressed by Steve Loomis, the head of the Cleveland police union, that officers don't have enough support, training and equipment to handle the RNC. Loomis says he's been reassured about the city's preparedness over the last few weeks, but he's fine with Klein bringing his concealed gun to Cleveland if that makes him more comfortable.
Loomis is more concerned about the open carry advocates who he fears could cause panic.
STEVE LOOMIS: Come down if you want to come down with your message. But don't come down here all strapped up. It's not going to make our job any easier and certainly not going to make the event any safer.
SCHULTZE: Then he shrugs, acknowledges Ohio's law and says we'll deal with it however we have to. For NPR News, I'm M.L. Schultze.
GREENE: And that story was co-reported with WHYY's Dave Davies as part of a political reporting collaborative with NPR.
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