Ohio’s open-carry gun law ratchets up security concerns at RNC

CLEVELAND — Top law enforcement officials say they’re stepping up security measures for the Republican National Convention next week amid concerns over public safety sparked by the recent attack in Dallas and police shootings around the country.

Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told House lawmakers on Thursday that the federal government is sending roughly 3,000 law enforcement officials to the RNC in Cleveland and Democratic convention in Philadelphia later this month.

“I am concerned about the prospect of demonstrations getting out of hand,” Johnson said, adding that he was “concerned about the possibility of violence.”

Activists are planning protests at both conventions, but security concerns are especially high in Cleveland, thanks to Ohio’s open-carry law, which allows most firearm owners to openly carry weapons in public.

Guns will be prohibited inside a “secure zone” around the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will be held and where Trump will deliver his nomination acceptance speech next Thursday, officials said.

But the state’s open-carry law will remain in effect outside of the secure zone, which will allow gun owners to carry firearms into downtown Cleveland — including inside the “event zone” where thousands of Trump supporters and anti-Trump forces will hold competing rallies next week.

“We’ll follow the law of the state and the law of the state is open-carry,” Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

Calvin Williams, Cleveland’s police chief, said that the city has adopted new “tactics” after the attack in Dallas last week, where a gunman killed five police officers during a protest over two recent police shootings of African American men.

“We talked a lot, of course, since Dallas and other things have happened” about how to prevent gun violence during the convention, Williams said.

Williams declined to give specific details, saying only that the city had made some changes to its security planning in response to the Dallas shooting.

In addition to the extra security officers sent by the Homeland Security Department and other federal agencies, the Cleveland Police Department will also receive assistance from other law enforcement officials from other departments across the country, officials said.

In recent days, the Secret Service has begun erecting metal barriers in downtown Cleveland near the Quicken Loans Arena and the city’s convention center.

As security preparations ramped up, some delegates said they were confident violence would be kept to a minimum.

“There’s good guys and bad guys,” said Amy Hedtke, an alternate delegate from Texas. “You watch your back, you practice situational awareness, and you’ll be OK.”

But others said sounded a note of caution. “I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s a concern for everybody,” said Juliana Bergeron, a national committeeman from New Hampshire.