Arguments heard in gun lawsuit
News editor | August 26, 2020 1:00 AM
SANDPOINT — Counsel for the city of Sandpoint disputed Bonner County’s standing Tuesday as a litigant in its lawsuit challenging a firearms prohibition during the Festival at Sandpoint and argued the matter is moot because the novel coronavirus pandemic has sidelined this year’s iteration of the waterfront concert series.
Peter Erbland, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who is representing the city in Bonner County’s lawsuit over a lease arrangement with the Festival which allows the nonprofit event promoters to enact its own security policies at War Memorial Field, said the suit should be dismissed because the county is not a party to the lease and has shown no injury in fact.
“That is where this case should end,” Erbland said in oral arguments before 1st District Court Judge Lansing Haynes in the city’s motion for summary judgment.
The county has argued in court filings that a demonstration of at least 250 people is expected if the firearms prohibition is allowed to stand and a court ruling is necessary to settle the matter and allow the city and the county to coordinate a law enforcement response if the firearms ban is allowed to stand.
The county maintains that state law forbids the curtailment of Second Amendment rights on public lands. The Festival said it supports the Second Amendment, but had to begin enacting more stringent security protocols in 2018 in order to honor contractual obligations with musical artists who perform during the concert series.
“The court has to provide clarity,” said attorney Amy Clemmons, who is representing the county in the dispute.
Clemmons said a demonstration during the Festival would impact the county’s budget and place Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, a staunch Second Amendment supporter, in the uncomfortable position of having to arrest people for trespassing if they do not comply with the firearms prohibition.
“The interests in this case are diverse and they are passionate,” Clemmons said.
Counsel for the city contends an affray is not a foregone conclusion, especially since the 2020 concert series has been put on hold because of the pandemic.
Haynes questioned whether an adverse ruling against the city would bring out anti-firearms demonstrators to protest the allowance of firearms during the concert series.
“It sounds to me like they’re set up for a demonstration either way,” said Haynes.
Clemons said there have been no incidents involving guns at the event, despite a longstanding Festival policy prohibiting weapons. The county said it needs eight to 12 months to prepare for a demonstration and has already begun purchasing batons and riot gear.
“Guns have been brought to the Festival for 20 years without incident,” Clemmmons said.
Erbland said the outlay of funds to prepare for a demonstration does not confer standing.
“If that were the case, anyone could buy their way into standing,” said Erbland.
Erbland added that city residents are now saddled with legal fees incurred by the city and the county.
“There’s no need for this. It shouldn’t happened in the first place,” Erbland said in reference to the litigation.
Haynes said he would take the arguments under advisement and issue a written ruling as soon as possible.
“I know there’s a significant amount of public interest in this case,” Haynes said.
Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.