The Potluck

North Minneapolis pastor and gun rights group sue to allow guns at State Fair

By: - August 10, 2021 12:09 pm

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota State Fair.

Citing fear of an increase in violent crime, a Black Twin Cities pastor, as well as a long-time gun rights activist and the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus filed a lawsuit on Tuesday asking a judge to allow people with Minnesota gun permits to come armed to the Minnesota State Fair.

Rev. Tim Christopher, who lives in Anoka and preaches in north Minneapolis, and gun rights activist Sarah Cade Hauptman filed the suit against the state’s Agricultural Society — which runs the State Fair — and Ramsey County, which oversees law enforcement there. They argue that the Second Amendment and state law supersedes local jurisdictions from barring visitors from carrying pistols.

The fairgrounds are on state property, and the Minnesota State Agriculture Society is a special entity defined in state statute.

“Plaintiffs wish to exercise their fundamental, constitutionally and 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 complaint reads.

The State Fair’s governing board decided last year to begin using metal detectors and states on its website that weapons are banned from the fairgrounds.

The Agricultural Society doesn’t have an ordinance or rule on its books that bans guns from the fairgrounds, but even if there were, Christopher and his co-plaintiffs argue it would be unenforceable since state law preempts local governments and state agencies from regulating firearms.

Minnesota law allows permitted gun owners to carry in public — including the State Capitol, the complaint notes.

The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department agreed to take over law enforcement operations of the State Fair this year after the Agricultural Society disbanded the State Fair police department earlier this year.

The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus alleges the former State Fair Police Chief Paul Paulos, who retired earlier this year, “would issue carry permits to select vendors and exhibitors without an official, formal application process” until at least 2016.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the State Fair wrote, “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.”

Ramsey County did not immediately return requests seeking comment.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.