Firearms ban spurs 2nd lawsuit

by Keith Kinnaird
News Editor | June 5, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Second Amendment proponents are suing the city and the Festival at Sandpoint over the summer concert series’ ban on firearms at War Memorial Field.

North Idaho residents Scott Herndon and Jeff Avery, in addition to the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and the Second Amendment Foundation, are seeking declaratory and injunctive relief preventing the infringement of the constitutional right to bear arms on public property. The 15-page civil complaint was filed in 1st District Court on May 29, court records show.

Idaho law forbids curtailment of Second Amendment rights on public lands. War Memorial Field is owned by the city and leased to the Festival for two weeks in August.

The Festival began enforcing the weapons prohibition and conducting more thorough screening procedures in 2018 in order to fulfill contractual obligations of artists who perform during the concert series. The city maintains the Festival can enact their own security protocols because of the lease arrangement.

Herndon and Avery were denied entry to the Festival in 2019 because they were carrying firearms. Their interaction with Festival security and Sandpoint Police was video recorded and posted to YouTube.

The suit notes that the Festival has successfully brought music and cultural events to Bonner County for decades without any significant incidents of violence or civil unrest.

The suit argues that the city’s delegation of police power to the nonprofit Festival is flawed in several ways. Counsel for the plaintiffs contend the city lacks the power to ban firearms on public property or transfer that power to a third party through a contract. Moreover, the Festival is preempted from regulating the right to bear arms in derogation of state law.

The suit seeks declaratory judgment barring the city from conveying police powers to the Festival or binding the Festival to the state’s preemption doctrine.

The suit further alleges a conspiracy to violate constitutional rights.

“By depriving plaintiffs to a public event, on public property, based on plaintiffs’ exercise of a fundamental right to bear arms in public for self-defense purposes, as protected by the Idaho and U.S. constitution as that right is protected from infringement by state actors under the 14th Amendment,” Emmett attorney Alexandria Kincaid and Caldwell attorney Donald Kilmer said in the suit.

The suit also alleges that the firearms prohibition violates constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures and unequal protection under the law.

It’s the second lawsuit over the firearms prohibition at the Festival. Bonner County sued the city last year with the similar aim of lifting the firearms prohibition. A motion for summary judgment in that case is set for June 19 in Kootenai County.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.