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Legal firearms will be allowed inside of RNC security footprint

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Legal firearms will be allowed inside of RNC security footprint

May 31, 2024 | 4:25 pm ET
By Isiah Holmes
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Legal firearms will be allowed inside of RNC security footprint
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Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, during a the media walkthrough of the 2024 Republican National Convention | Wisconsin Examiner photo

Security measures during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July continue to concern Milwaukeeans. The news that non-plastic containers, water bottles and tennis balls will not be allowed near the convention but firearms will spurred criticism.

“I find that totally absurd,” Ald. Robert Bauman said in response to the rule, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. “Literally, you can’t have tennis balls, but you can have an AR-15 assault rifle. Bauman said he’s not sure  he can continue to support the proposed ordinance that  will govern how the RNC will be conducted.

City officials are saying that their hands are tied, given legal issues surrounding guns in Wisconsin. “We are at the mercy of state law for this,” said Nick DeSiato, chief of staff for Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson. Firearms  prohibited under state law won’t be allowed in the security footprint of the RNC. Those include weapons like machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, and suppressors which are more commonly known as “silencers.” Wisconsin is an open carry state, and proposed legislation to tighten gun control has been met with stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers. State law prevents all city and local governments from prohibiting the possession or act of carrying legal firearms.

Allowing firearms isn’t unique to the RNC. Four years ago, similar rules were put into effect for the Democratic National Convention (DNC). That political convention, occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and had little presence in Milwaukee.

While the exact details of the security footprint for the RNC are being hashed out, it’s clear that it will encompass the area around the Fiserv Forum, UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, and the Baird Center. The U.S. Secret Service, which controls aspects of the security perimeter, is still preparing a full list of prohibited items which will be released after the plan is finalized.

Gov. Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency during the RNC in Milwaukee, which allows the National Guard to assist in providing security for the convention. The Wisconsin National Guard, Evers clarified in his order, “may not be used to impede the ability of people to peacefully protest.”

The declaration also facilitates cooperation between local and out-of-state law enforcement agencies. As many as 4,500 law enforcement officers could come to assist the convention. So far, local and state agencies from Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, and North Carolina have finalized agreements to assist with convention security.

Over recent weeks, Republican officials have called for stricter rules to prevent protests from occurring near the convention. Meanwhile the Coalition to March on the RNC, consisting of nearly 100 organizations, has struggled to get a permit to hold a march approved by the city. Some reports have indicated that a speakers platform will be established within sight and sound of the convection, where members of the public will be granted limited time slots to voice their support or opposition to the convention and Republican  policies. Republican officials have urged the Secret Service to push protests further away from the convention area, which the federal agency has declined.

On May 31, the Coalition confirmed with Wisconsin Examiner that the city has yet to approve its permit to march, nor has a timeline for the permit’s approval been given.