Judge rejects bid to allow guns at Minnesota State Fair
Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2021
MINNEAPOLIS — A judge has rejected a request by a gun owners group for a temporary injunction to require the Minnesota State Fair to allow permit holders to carry their pistols on the fairgrounds, ruling Wednesday that they’re unlikely to prevail as the broader case goes forward.
Ramsey County District Judge Laura Nelson ruled less than 24 hours before the State Fair opens Thursday that the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus failed to meet its burden of proof that the fair’s longstanding ban on guns violates state law or that they have sufficient legal grounds to seek relief. The group contends the ban violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and state laws governing the rights of permit holders to carry their guns in public.
Nelson pointed out in her ruling that the State Fair has banned guns since 2003, when it began posting prominent signs at the gates, and that the prohibition has been posted on the fair’s website since at least 2016, when fair officials began doing bag checks. And she noted that the fair announced plans in 2020 to start using metal detectors to enforce the ban.
But the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus didn’t sue the fair’s governing body, the Minnesota State Agricultural Society, to overturn the ban until earlier this month. She wasn’t persuaded that the fair’s recent decision to contract with the county sheriff’s office for law enforcement on the grounds was a significant change. Nelson said the purpose of a temporary injunction is normally to preserve the status quo, and that the status quo in this case favors letting the ban stand.
“The Plaintiffs have long been aware of the Society’s position on guns at the State Fair, and that their extensive delay undercuts their claim of irreparable harm,” Nelson wrote.
The judge also pointed out that attorneys for the fair argued that the event would suffer lost ticket sales, lower attendance and profits, and that there could be costs from performers pulling out, if she granted the injunction. She also noted that they raised public safety concerns about the large crowds expected at the fair, the consumption of alcohol, the presence of children and the possibility that some permit holders might try to bring long guns onto the fairgrounds.
Attorney Scott Flaherty argued for the gun owners at a hearing last week that the question isn’t whether allowing guns onto the fairgrounds is good public policy but whether the ban is legal.
But State Fair attorney Leah Janus countered that fair officials have the authority under state law to impose rules they deem necessary to protect the “health, safety and comfort” of visitors.
The judge’s ruling does not end the case, and the arguments will continue.
“We’ll announce next steps in the case shortly,” the caucus said in a statement posted on its website. “This is only the first step in the process. There will be a full hearing on the merits sometime in the coming weeks/months.”