In the wake of the mass shooting in Orlando, some Pennsylvania delegates to the Republican National Convention who favor Donald Trump have applied for gun-carry permits and plan to go armed to Cleveland, where the convention will be held.
The delegates say they’re concerned for their personal safety, and want to express solidarity with Trump’s support of gun rights in the wake of the Orlando tragedy. Some say night clubs should welcome armed patrons.
The man who got fellow delegates thinking about applying for gun-carry permits is Jamie Klein, a Trump delegate from central Pennsylvania.
Klein’s a longtime NRA member who regularly carries a pocket-sized 9 mm automatic pistol. He started thinking about bringing a weapon to Cleveland, in part, because of reports of Trump supporters being punched by protesters in San Jose when police weren’t around.
“It appears this race is becoming violent,” Klein said in an interview. “After seeing what I saw on TV, people being assaulted, knocked down, I thought it might be a good idea to carry a firearm with me to the hotel.”
Klein knows the Secret Service won’t permit weapons on the convention floor, but he said it’s smart to be ready if protests outside the convention get out of hand. A gun-carry permit from Pennsylvania is recognized as valid in Ohio.
Spreading the word
At a recent meeting of the Pennsylvania delegation in Harrisburg, Klein urged other delegates who aren’t handgun owners to apply for carry permits and come to Cleveland armed.
One who was convinced is Ash Khare, a 67-year-old Indian-born engineer from rural Warren County who’s long been active in Republican politics. He’s never owned or fired a handgun.
“I am the last person that my family expected to carry a gun,” Khare said. “But then at the end of the day, we all look at life, and we say we are responsible for the safety and security of our families and loved ones.”
Khare has applied for a carry permit, and he says he’ll want to get some training and range time before he takes a weapon to Cleveland.
Khare is also troubled by the threat of violent demonstrations, but he said Pennsylvania delegates are also arming themselves in solidarity with Trump and his views on gun rights in the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando night club.
Guns in night clubs?
At a speech in Houston last week, Trump said it would have been “a beautiful sight” if one of the people in the Orlando that night had been a carrying gun and had shot Omar Mateen.
Trump has since walked that statement back, saying he meant only employees of the club should have been armed and returned fire.
But ask Pennsylvania Trump delegates if people should be allowed to carry guns into clubs, where drinking, romantic rivalries and arguments are common, and they aren’t ruling it out.
“They’re still Americans in there, and Americans still have a Second Amendment right to defend themselves anytime, anywhere,” said Matt Jansen, a Trump delegate from York County. He’s also applied for a carry permit.
“Should people be allowed to carry in a bank, in a school, in a night club? My answer to that would be ‘yes,'” Jansen said, adding that policies should be up to local communities.
“That’s why we have local levels of politics,” he said. “People can get involved and maybe help manage that question.”
“In night clubs, we have designated drivers,” Klein said. “By the same line of thought, we could have designated safety people, designated either by the venue itself or the people attending, to remain sober and to be armed.”
Welcome in Ohio?
How do the Cleveland police feel about Pennsylvania delegates facing protesters with guns in their pockets?
Officials there won’t talk about it, but Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said at a briefing a few weeks ago police are ready to keep the peace.
“We’re not going to stand for any lawlessness,” Tomba said. “If someone breaks the law, we’re going to take swift, appropriate and constitutional action to mitigate that. But we’re not going to stand for that.”
Most Pennsylvania delegates won’t be armed when they come to Cleveland. I confirmed four who will be, and Matt Jansen says there are others.
Delaware County delegate and attorney Michael Puppio said those arming themselves have a right to do so if they’re worried about their safety, but he’s “not quite sure what political point it would be proving.”
The delegation’s leader, Republican State Committee Chairman Rob Gleason said it’s anyone’s right to carry a weapon — and while he won’t be joining them, he won’t criticize them.
Jamie Klein said he’ll think carefully about which gun to take to Cleveland. He said it’s like deciding what to wear to the prom.
But make no mistake, he said, if he’s in a threatening situation the police can’t control, he’ll do what he has to.
“I’m an old man,” Klein said. “I cannot run and I cannot jump. And if some group of people were to threaten my safety or my wife, I have been trained to stop them.”