U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- On 10 August 2021, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus filed suit against the State Agricultural Society and Sheriff Bob Fletcher to stop them from violating state law by prohibiting lawful, permitted carry at the State Fair.
Minnesota expressly acknowledges that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is an individual right. Minnesota is one of only six states without a state constitutional protection of the right to keep and bear arms. Next year, it is likely Iowa will approve of a strong amendment to protect the right, reducing the number of states without such protection to five.
Minnesota has strong preemption laws forbidding lower levels of government in the state from enacting restrictions on the right to arms. The state legislature has reserved the power to enact firearms legislation/regulation to the state government. From the news release:
As an arm of state government, the Minnesota State Agricultural Society is completely preempted under multiple state statutes from prohibiting the lawful carry of firearms on the state fairgrounds or during the Minnesota State Fair. Specifically, Minnesota law preempts any local regulation of firearms and ammunition that is inconsistent with state law “to the complete exclusion of any order, ordinance, or regulation”.
Ramsey County and the Ramsey County Sheriff, Bob Fletcher, are party to this suit due to the Joint Powers Agreement signed between the Society and the County authorizing the Sheriff’s office to serve as the primary law enforcement agency for the State Fair.
For years, the Society has purported to prohibit firearms at the State Fair through policies and signing without any legal authorization for their supposed prohibition. The State Agricultural Society does have the ability to enact ordinances, however, those ordinances cannot validly conflict with state or federal law. According to Data Practices Act requests from the Caucus, the Society has not enacted any such ordinances – and if they had, they would be invalid on their face because of Minnesota’s preemption statutes.
“The State Agricultural Society, Ramsey County, and Sheriff Fletcher must follow the laws of the State of Minnesota, ” said Bryan Strawser, Chair, MN Gun Owners Caucus. “There is simply no legal or constitutional justification for the prohibition on lawful, permitted carry of firearms at the Minnesota State Fair.”
“Not only is the Fair breaking the law by attempting to enforce a policy banning firearms this year, but they are also actively denying every law-abiding permit holder the ability to travel safely to and from the fair, ” added Rob Doar, Political Director. “Despite millions of visitors every year, the Fair has no record of any person being ejected for carrying a firearm or any issues with the civilian carry of firearms. Their policy is not only illegal, but it’s also unnecessary.”
Minnesota law requires anyone who carries a handgun or possesses one in a motor vehicle, snowmobile, or boat, in public places, to obtain a permit to carry.
Minnesota carry permit holders are extraordinarily law-abiding. As of 2020, there were 358,897 valid carry permits. In 2020, only 36 of those permits were revoked. Permit holders are generally more law-abiding than police officers. Permit holders are far more law-abiding than the general population, as noted in the Supreme Court Amicus brief filed by 26 State governments.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs state they wish to exercise their rights:
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. But they cannot because of the laws, regulations, policies, practices, and customs that Defendants have been enforcing and continue to actively enforce today.
The case has been filed in the District Court for the State of Minnesota. It will be litigated in the coming months.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.