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Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette
Handguns are not allowed on the Parkview Field property as well as Grand Wayne Center and Embassy Theatre during the GOP convention.

GOP convention at gun-free spots

– Hundreds of Republicans attending the GOP State Convention in Fort Wayne this June won’t be able to carry firearms into the event’s primary venues.

It is the first time the party has scheduled its annual convention outside Indianapolis, and a gun ban could cast a shadow over an event that was supposed to be a celebration of Fort Wayne.

Organizers have gone out of the way to attract national speakers to Grand Wayne Center and host Fort Fun Night at Parkview Field as well as a Kenny Loggins concert at Embassy Theatre.

“Oh my gosh. That’s ironical,” said Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City. “It could be a problem for some people but I haven’t heard a lot of angst. Some will be up in arms about it.”

Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said all three venues have policies against firearms and he doesn’t expect them to change for the convention.

“That’s the normal policy,” he said, noting he hasn’t heard much about the topic.

Nearly 1,800 delegates will choose Republican nominees for state auditor, secretary of state and treasurer at the convention, which will be at Grand Wayne Center on June 6 and 7. Speakers include Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Fox News talk-show host, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

An event with food and bands will be held for delegates at Parkview Field on Friday night, and the Loggins concert is Saturday night.

Bill Bean, a convention organizer, said at least $200,000 will be spent on the convention, with all of the money donated by private sources.

The gun issue came up during a Monday organizational meeting with representatives from the party, Grand Wayne, Embassy and Parkview.

TinCaps President Mike Nutter said signs in front of Parkview Field have a picture of a gun with a line through it indicating firearms are not allowed. Some events have bag checks and others also have pat-downs. He was unsure the exact security level for the GOP event.

“It is our standard policy,” he said.

Nutter said a few people have shown up for a game in the past with a gun in open view and they were not permitted in.

“I don’t doubt there might be some folks who don’t like it, but that’s our policy,” he said.

Embassy Marking Director Barb Richards also said guns are not allowed, pointing to a statement on the theater’s website that also prohibits knives, Tasers and mace. She said some event promoters want more security than others.

“We have signs we put out when we are open,” she said.

Richards said the topic was broached at Monday’s organizational meeting but there was no major discussion.

Calls and emails to Grand Wayne Center weren’t returned Monday.

And Indiana Republican Party spokeswoman Erin Reece said state GOP Chairman Tim Berry is waiting on further clarification from Grand Wayne Center’s management on its firearms policy.

The 2012 GOP convention was at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, which recently hosted the National Rifle Association meeting where firearms were allowed.

That center’s policy says a 2011 law prohibits the Capital Improvement Board – a political subdivision – from regulating guns in its facilities. But an organizer or promoter of an event using the space can restrict firearms if they choose.

It is unclear if the same law applies to Grand Wayne.

nkelly@jg.net

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