You can find plenty of things to do at the Minnesota State Fair, from concerts featuring performers from The Chainsmokers to The Doobie Brothers; a traveling reptile show; barns full of prize-winning livestock and their proud owners; and a midway offering up delectable fair food like Walleye on a Stick and pork rind nachos. One thing you won’t find, however, are armed citizens… at least if the board that governs the state fair has its way.
The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus filed suit in state court on Tuesday in an attempt to block the state fair’s policy banning the lawful carrying of firearms within the fairgrounds, which the 2A group says is a violation of the Second Amendment rights of fairgoers as well as the governing board’s own bylaws.
In addition to the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, the plaintiffs also include two individuals, both regular fairgoers, who are seeking the ability to legally carry a firearm onto the fairgrounds.
“Plaintiffs wish to exercise their fundamental, constitutionally and statutorily protected right to carry loaded, operable handguns on their person, at the annual Minnesota State Fair, for lawful purposes including immediate self-defense,” the suit reads. “But they cannot because of the laws, regulations, policies, practices, and customs that Defendants have been enforcing and continue to actively enforce today.”
The suit claims the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Minnesota law “supersedes … any inconsistent local regulation.” The suit also claims the policy was not properly established in the State Agricultural Society’s bylaws for the fair.
The MGOC points out that those with concealed carry licenses can carry at the state Capitol, but under the fair’s policy they’re forbidden from doing so on the Midway, agricultural barns, or any other fair property. According to the 2A group, any such gun ban violates the state’s firearm preemption laws, which leave the authority for imposing gun laws on the state legislature and not political subdivisions or bodies like the State Agricultural Society. The new lawsuit also alleges that the State Agricultural Society imposed their new gun ban through unlawful promulgation of rules for fair attendees, and that anyone attempting to lawfully carry at the state fair risks being arrested and charged with a misdemeanor crime as a result.
In addition to the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, two individual members are also a party to the lawsuit. Rev. Tim Christopher shepherds his flock at Berean Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, and Sarah Cade Hauptman runs a holster company with her husband Jon in the Minneapolis suburb of Maplewood. Both Christopher and Hauptman say they regularly carry their firearms in self-defense in the course of their daily activities, and would like to do so at the state fair without running afoul of the law.
Given the fact that the 2019 Minnesota State Fair ended with three people shot not far from the fairgrounds itself, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Christopher and Hauptman to want to carry their firearms for self-defense. Even if crime within the fairgrounds is generally pretty low, violent crime is soaring across Minneapolis, and the fair’s ban on lawfully carried firearms means that attendees must also be disarmed on their way to and from the fairgrounds itself.
Ultimately this lawsuit hinges more on Minnesota’s firearm preemption law than the feelings of either Christopher or Hauptman, but the pair’s arguments remind us that there are plenty of practical reasons why the fair’s policy should be rescinded even if it’s eventually upheld in court. With the Minnesota State Fair set to kick off August 26th, we shouldn’t have too long to wait to learn if the request to block the fair’s gun ban will be granted. Here’s hoping common sense and the Second Amendment rights of fairgoers prevail.