Silhouettes of people all carrying guns

When it began to go viral a petition was calling for open carry of guns at this summer’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the joke that followed was this: “The only way to stop a bad Trump delegate with a gun is a good Cruz delegate with a gun.”

The petition proved to be satirical, but over 50,000 gun lovers were convinced it was real.

The fever for guns, and for what some are calling “constitutional carry”, is as hot as ever. For those who don’t want to carry a gun on their hip at all times, it’s becoming more difficult to grasp what’s real and unreal, and what’s downright surreal.

Take for instance what’s real.

An ad in the Columbus Alive says the ladies can go to Vance gun stores for over 40 styles of concealed carry handbags. In Clintonville, at a store called Gun Envy, you can rent a machine gun and invite all your pals to party.

Yet what’s deadly serious is that earlier this year two Glock 22 semi-automatic handguns went missing from Gun Envy after shipped via US Postal Service, this according to Columbus police. The ATF is investigating.

For the record, the Clintonville Chamber of Commerce and the Clintonville Area Commission told the Free Press they’ve never heard a complaint about Gun Envy. The Free Press also spoke with Gun Envy owners who said their store is safe and “built like a fortress”. As for the stolen Glocks, the owners said the US Postal Service “doesn’t care” if it loses guns.

Nevertheless, also real is the state’s House Bill 48, passed by the Ohio House of Representatives late last year and currently in committee within the Ohio Senate. The bill’s main sponsor is Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon), who’s held a number of NRA-chaperoned “Machine Gun Social” campaign fundraisers.

House Bill 48 would allow concealed carry handguns at day-care centers, public buildings, and public areas of police stations, among other places. The bill would also give public and private universities the choice of allowing concealed carry, and grant the institutions legal immunity for injuries or death as a result of hidden handguns.

Critics of House Bill 48 are calling it the “gun everywhere” legislation.

Proponents say day-care centers are becoming more dangerous and apparently they don’t feel “secure” or “manly” around toddlers anymore.

All jokes aside, some are pushing back against more hidden guns in public places. Such as the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCGAV), which has been advocating for common-sense guns laws for 20 years.

The OCGAV has just two offices and a handful of employees. Yet when the coalition initiated a virtual lobbying barrage in April at the Ohio legislature against House Bill 48, the national lobbying arm of the NRA took notice.

“The gun lobby tried to hijack our day of action,” says OCAGV’s executive director Jennifer Thorne of Columbus.

Thorne says the gun lobby is a master of inciting fear. But it’s a ruse, she says, an effort to hoodwink their supporters.

“Less people are buying guns, but gun owners are buying more and more guns,” she says. “The gun culture is a culture of fear inspired by the gun lobby to increase their client’s bottom line. The clients being the manufacturers.”

The gun-lobby’s prowess at influencing gun lovers is far more complex and more insidious then many know, says Thorne says. The enemy isn’t just President Obama.

“They inspire this fantasy if you carry a gun you can enact vigilante justice. That you are a super hero,” she says. “But in fact, having concealed carry holders at a shooter situation doesn’t help. It makes it that much more difficult for law enforcement because they don’t know if this is another bad guy.”

Ohio passed concealed carry legislation in 2004. But many experts agree there’s no way to prove or disprove whether expanded concealed carry laws have played a role in the decline of US violent crime over the past two decades.

One wrinkle in the debate is a 2011 study by the Washington-based Violence Prevention Center which found that the states with the loosest gun laws and highest rates of gun ownership had the highest per capita of gun-related deaths.

Thorne says because the gun lobby is pushing gun normalcy past recreation and into a need for protection and vigilantism, it doesn’t bode well for anyone and everyone.

“I think we have to recognize when there are more deadly weapons, there’s a greater chance they will be used in a deadly manner,” she said.


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