CLEVELAND—The Cleveland police union is calling on the Ohio governor to suspend the state's open-carry gun laws during the Republican National Convention this week.
Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis told Fox 8 Cleveland that lawyers are putting together an official request to to Gov. John Kasich, after three officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge on Sunday. He said allowing protesters to carry guns during what are expected to be contentious demonstrations could put officers and the public in danger.
“I don't care what the legal precedent is, I feel strongly that leadership needs to stand up and defend these police officers,” Loomis told Reuters.
Kasich said he didn't have the authority to get around the state's open-carry law. "Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested," a spokeswoman for the governor told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Ohio’s open-carry laws allow anyone who is not a felon to carry weapons anywhere in the state. A Secret Service-designated zone directly around the Quicken Loans Area, where the convention will take place, is exempt.
The union's proposal seems to drive a wedge between two of the Republican Party's most treasured values: supporting police officers and guaranteeing the right to bear arms. In an interview with 60 Minutes released Sunday night—but recorded before the police union's announcement—Donald Trump responded to a question about the state's open-carry law by saying "I have great confidence in law enforcement." He added that it would be "fantastic" if convention attendees didn't bring their guns.
In Cleveland, however, delegates arriving at the convention said they disagreed with the police union's proposal.
"It's unconstitutional," said Randy Bishop, a Michigan delegate. "If more people on the streets of Cleveland had guns, we'd be able to back the police up." He refused to say whether he was carrying a gun at the moment, citing "my Fifth Amendment rights."
Jay Obernolte, a California delegate, also said the union was wrong. "You can't have it both ways," he said. "I think the bad guys are going to have guns anyway, and I'd want good guys with guns around me if anything happens."
The police union told Fusion it could not immediately comment.
At least one man came to a protest on Sunday in Cleveland carrying an AR-15 style rifle—Steve Thacker, a retired marine—and he became an immediate journalist magnet.
Worries about what could happen during a tense week of protests and counter-protests grew on Sunday when a gunman opened fire on police officers in Baton Rouge, killing three and wounding three. The attack came just 10 days after another gunman, Micah Johnson, shot and killed five Dallas police officers and wounded seven others.
Only eight states and the District of Columbia do not allow open-carry of weapons. Pennsylvania, where the Democratic National Convention will be held next week, has some restrictions on the carrying of long guns in pubic.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.