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Judge denies gun rights group's motion to allow state fair attendees to carry guns

A judge ruled against a request for a temporary injunction on the fair's weapon's ban, keeping it in place while the lawsuit proceeds.

A Minnesota District Court judge has denied a gun rights group’s motion to allow guns at the state fair, though a lawsuit on the matter may proceed.

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, along with fairgoers Rev. Tim Christopher of Anoka County and Sarah Cade Hauptman of Ramsey County, filed a lawsuit against Ramsey County, Sheriff Bob Fletcher and the State Agricultural Society to allow attendees to carry guns at the fair.

Related: MN gun group sues State Fair to allow people to carry guns

Judge Laura Nelson ruled Wednesday to deny the group’s motion for a temporary injunction on the fair's weapons ban, meaning the event can continue to deny entry to armed attendees while the lawsuit proceeds. The first day of the fair is Thursday.

Nelson wrote that the ban is the status quo, which courts generally tend to uphold until a trial.

The lawsuit also seeks to have the State Agricultural Society, which puts on the fair, codify an official policy on weapons, provide training to fair workers and pay for attorney fees and other expenses.

According to court materials, the State Fair has banned weapons on the fairgrounds since at least 2003. The lawsuit argues the ban violates the Second Amendment and state law, which supersede “any inconsistent local regulation.”

Gun Owners Caucus Chairman Bryan Strawser previously told MPR News the enforcement of the weapons ban has become more strict in recent years, including the addition of metal detectors this year. This makes the lawsuit more pressing, he said.

Nelson also noted that new enforcement policies have likely made it harder for attendees to carry weapons. 

“The individual Plaintiffs, who are long-term fair attendees, have chosen in past years to ignore the ban and carry firearms at the State Fair,” Nelson wrote in the ruling.

“The difference this year is not in the rule, but rather the increased likelihood that violating it will be detected due to the addition of metal detectors. This factor favors denying the injunction.”

On its website, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus said it would announce its “next steps” in the lawsuit shortly.

“We're obviously disappointed in this outcome, but we knew going into this case that obtaining a temporary injunction was a high burden to overcome,” the organization said in a statement.

“It's our duty, though, to take the right actions on behalf of our members and Minnesota's 2.5 million law-abiding gun owners.”

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