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

The group filed the lawsuit on Tuesday.
Minnesota State Fair - main gate day 2021

A gun rights group and two gun owners have filed a lawsuit demanding they be allowed to carry guns at the Minnesota State Fair. 

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, along with Rev. Tim Christopher of Anoka County and Sarah Cade Hauptman of Ramsey County, who are both regular fairgoers, filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Ramsey County, Sheriff Bob Fletcher (the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office is directing fair security this year) and the State Agricultural Society, which puts on the State Fair.

They're seeking an injunction that would prevent Fair officials from denying entry to armed and permitted gun owners. 

The lawsuit claims the State Fair's ban on weapons violates the Second Amendment and Minnesota state law, noting it supersedes and preempts "any inconsistent local regulation" about carrying a gun. It adds that the weapons policy was not properly established in the State Agriculture Society's bylaws for the Minnesota State Fair. 

"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 lawsuit states. "But they cannot because of the laws, regulations, policies, practices, and customs that defendants have been enforcing and continue to actively enforce today."

Weapons are among the banned items from the fairgrounds, according to the State Fair's website. There will be walk-through metal detectors at all entry gates, with bags, purses, coolers and packages being subject to search. 

The State Fair has banned weapons for several years, but Gun Owners Caucus Chairman Bryan Strawser told MPR News enforcement of the policy has been inconsistent. The Fair's decision to add metal detectors this year made their lawsuit more pressing, he noted. 

In addition to the injunction, the lawsuit is demanding the State Agricultural Society codify an official policy on weapons at the Fair, provide training to Fair workers and pay their attorney fees and other expenses. 

In a statement to Bring Me The News, the State Fair said, "The State Fair does not comment on pending litigation. We will maintain our time-honored Minnesota tradition of peaceful, family-friendly fairs by protecting the safety and security of our guests."

According to MPR News, back in July, the State Agricultural Society's lawyer sent a letter to the Gun Owners Caucus, saying:

"The State Agricultural Society has the obligation and the authority to impose rules and policies that prioritize the health and safety of fairgoers. To that end, the State Agricultural Society has consistently maintained the policy that private citizens may not bring weapons onto the fairgrounds during the fair."

The Minnesota State Fair begins Aug. 26 and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 6. 

In Minnesota, it is legal to carry a handgun in public (there's no rule on whether it has to be concealed) so long as you have a permit to carry from your local sheriff's office. 

There are several requirements to getting a permit to carry, which are valid for five years, including being a Minnesota resident who is at least 21 years old, being legally allowed to possess a firearm, and have completed an authorized firearms training course. 

Last year, sheriffs in Minnesota issued 96,554 permits to carry, more than any other year since the state's Personal Protection Act was enacted in 2003, according to the Minnesota Department of Safety (DPS)

There are 351,035 valid permits to carry in Minnesota as of Dec. 31, 2020, DPS' 2020 report shows.

The DPS' website says private establishments can prohibit weapons but they must post a notice banning guns on their premises or personally notify patrons that guns are not allowed.

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