Just when everyone was looking forward to the Minnesota State Fair after a painful hiatus due to COVID, along comes a gun advocacy group that is suing the State Agricultural Society, which controls the fair, and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, which is providing security.
Metal detectors are being used for the first time to help screen fairgoers. In a statement, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, which filed the suit on behalf of a Twin Cities preacher and a longtime firearms advocate, said that as an arm of state government, the society is "completely preempted under multiple state statutes from prohibiting the lawful carry of firearms on the state fairgrounds."
The lawsuit contends that "Minnesota law allows permitted carry even inside the State Capitol — an area more serious than the light-hearted State Fair."
We're not sure what "more serious" as opposed to "light-hearted" has to do with anything. It is simply a distraction, a fact without relevance. Yes, guns are allowed at the State Capitol. But they are not allowed in courthouses, another public space. Nor in churches, which are nonprofit. Nor at hospitals.
The proponents of this foolish, dangerous notion would have you believe that as a society we are unable to draw any lines, to make any distinctions. It's all or nothing. We allow guns everywhere or nowhere.
That has never been and should never be the case.
We are fully capable of assessing a situation, determining risk and setting boundaries. Minnesota State Attorney General Keith Ellison told an editorial writer that, contrary to the lawsuit, "there are state statutes that specifically allow institutions to keep out guns. That is a very sound law."
Let us state this as clearly as possible: Guns at the Minnesota State Fair is a terrible idea. It would fundamentally change the nature of the Great Minnesota Get-Together to see people with rifles slung over one shoulder or a Glock tucked into a holster amid fairgrounds packed with families, toddlers, seniors and teenagers.
Whether the advocates are doing this as simply one more exercise in boundary-pushing, to raise funds, or out of perhaps an overweening fear of fairgoers, they risk driving off those who were greatly anticipating the peaceful celebratory atmosphere at one of Minnesota's most cherished traditions.
"I don't know why they feel so afraid," Ellison said. "Guns inherently introduce an element of danger. The rest of us have rights, too, including the right not to be in a gun-infested area just so someone can prove a point." While Ellison is not a party to the lawsuit, he told an editorial writer that he will review the complaint and "will not hesitate to get involved if need be."
Gov. Tim Walz, himself a gun owner and hunter, said in a statement to an editorial writer that "responsible gun owners know that just because you can have a gun doesn't mean you should in any situation." Guns at the fair, he said, would be "unnecessary and irresponsible."
Minnesota should hope Ramsey County District Court acts as quickly as possible to affirm the right of fair organizers to ban firearms, as other entities have been able to do.