For the first time ever, the National Rifle Association sent its chief lobbyist to the Republican National Convention. According to the NRA, Chris Cox became the group’s first official to ever speak at a political convention. Cox warned that a Hillary Clinton presidency would endanger one’s right to own a gun. While Cox spoke inside the convention on Tuesday, anti-gun activists held their own protest just outside the security gates against the fact that civilians are being allowed to carry military-grade weapons in downtown Cleveland this week but can’t have items such as tennis balls, cans or umbrellas. Democracy Now! was there when antiwar group CodePink teamed up with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to deliver 500 tennis balls to the front steps of the Republican National Convention.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” I’m Amy Goodman. For the first time ever, the National Rifle Association sent its chief lobbyist to the Republican National Convention, and he spoke from the stage. According to the NRA, Chris Cox became the group’s first official to ever speak at a political convention. Cox warned that a Hillary Clinton presidency would endanger the right to own a gun.
CHRIS COX: Eight years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that we have a fundamental individual right to protect ourselves and our families with a firearm in our own homes. They should have ruled it nine to nothing, but the Second Amendment survived by just one vote. After Justice Scalia’s death, that vote is gone. In case you’re wondering where Hillary Clinton stands, she said, quote, “The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.” Think about that. All the Supreme Court said was that you have the right to protect your life in your own home. But Hillary says they’re wrong. It’s that simple. A Hillary Clinton Supreme Court means your right to own a firearm is gone.
AMY GOODMAN: While NRA lobbyist Chris Cox spoke inside the convention, addressed the convention Tuesday, anti-gun activists held their own protest just outside the security gates. They were protesting the fact civilians are being allowed to carry military-grade weapons in downtown Cleveland this week, but can’t have items like tennis balls, cans or umbrellas. That’s because Ohio is an open-carry state. On Tuesday, the antiwar group CodePink delivered 500 tennis balls to the front steps of the Republican National Convention. In a press release, they said the action was meant to highlight the hypocrisy of Republican support for gun laws that permit firearms, including military-style weapons, to be carried openly nearly anywhere in Ohio, while the RNC bans an item as innocuous as tennis balls from their convention. Well, Democracy Now! was on the scene of the protest.
PROTESTERS: Ban open carry, not tennis balls! Ban open carry, not tennis balls!
CHELSEA BYERS: My name’s Chelsea Byers. I’m with CodePink: Women for Peace. We’re here saying that it’s ridiculous that theRNC has banned tennis balls, and yet they continue to let open carry happen in these streets. If they’re concerned about safety, they should be taking the guns off of these streets, not banning toys.
PROTESTERS: Ban open carry, not tennis balls!
MARTHA DURKEE-NEUMAN: My name is Martha Neuman. I really strongly disagree with the Republican idea that our Second Amendment rights are more important than the freedom and security of our communities in the streets.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Sir, we think tennis balls should be allowed.
POLICE OFFICER 1: No, they’re prohibited. They’re on a prohibited list.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: We play with tennis balls. They’re games. They’re games.
POLICE OFFICER 1: So you can pick them up and put them away. I’m asking you nicely.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: But it’s silly.
POLICE OFFICER 1: I’m giving you the opportunity, OK?
CHELSEA BYERS: I understand, but —
MEDEA BENJAMIN: It’s silly.
POLICE OFFICER 1: They’re prohibited. Listen, they’re prohibited.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: I mean, how can open carry — how can you be allowed to carry around an assault weapon, but not a tennis ball? It doesn’t make sense.
POLICE OFFICER 1: I’m telling you what’s on our list that’s prohibited. So you have the opportunity —
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yeah, but it doesn’t — sometimes the lists don’t make sense.
POLICE OFFICER 1: I’m giving you the opportunity to put them away. OK?
CHELSEA BYERS: Why don’t the lists make sense?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yeah, you should be more rational about this.
POLICE OFFICER 1: I have a supervisor who’s going to come. And we’re going to take them, OK?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: You should be more rational about this, sir.
CHELSEA BYERS: You’re going to take the balls away?
POLICE OFFICER 1: Yeah, they’ll be seized.
CHELSEA BYERS: Are they going to take the weapons in the streets away, too?
POLICE OFFICER 1: Yeah, the balls will be seized, just so you know.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: What about assault weapons? Will they be seized?
POLICE OFFICER 1: Here, put them back in the bags. No.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: We are being told that balls will be seized, and we are being threatened with jail.
PROTESTERS: We want to play with our tennis balls! We want to play with our tennis balls!
POLICE OFFICER 2: Who’s in charge? Who’s in charge?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: It’s a cooperative. We’re all in charge.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Listen to me. It’s not a joke, because people use these as weapons. And when people use these as weapons, we don’t know what is right and what is wrong. So it is not a joke.
POLICE OFFICER 3: Back up, please. Back up, please. Media, back up, please.
MEDEA BENJAMIN: How do you use a tennis ball as a weapon?
POLICE OFFICER 3: Give us some room. Back up, please. Media, you need to back up, please.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re standing in front of the Q, the convention arena of the RNC. A group of women from CodePink are holding tennis balls. They’ve been tossing them around with each other. Their tennis balls say “ban guns, not balls.” And they have been told by the police — you can see right here, they’re picking up the balls. Tennis balls are on a ban list, but automatic weapons are not.
What have they told you right now?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: They told us this is not a game. You could open up a tennis ball and put feces inside, and it could get thrown at them, and it would be very dangerous.
AMY GOODMAN: The NRA will be addressing the Republican convention tonight. Your thoughts?
MEDEA BENJAMIN: Well, we think that the NRA has, unfortunately, been setting the agenda for this entire nation, especially the Republican Party, where you can’t even get a vote in the congressional houses on issues from banning assault weapons to even the no-fly issue. So, I think it’s unfortunate that the NRA has so much power in this country. And that’s why we see guns on our streets and people being shot every single day, every single hour of every single day. And we were here to show the absurdity of it. But he’s right, the officer: It’s not funny. It’s really dangerous. And it’s the guns that are dangerous. It’s the NRA that is dangerous. It’s theNRA that’s killing our kids, and we have to stop them.
AMY GOODMAN: The hundreds of tennis balls that the CodePink women brought in front of the Republican convention were confiscated by the Cleveland police, and there were many layers of security. First the police moved in. Then riot police moved in. Then the Indiana state troopers moved in. And then police on horseback moved in, as well. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, we’ll be talking about the RNC and immigration policy. Stay with us.