Saturday, June 13, 2015

St. Louis Zoo Obtains Restraining Order against the Exercise of Constitutional Rights

The St. Louis Zoo has asked for, and Judge Joan Moriarty has issued, a temporary restraining order barring a Second Amendment activist from visiting the Zoo while armed.  From
ST. LOUIS (AP) – A judge is barring a gun-rights advocate from entering the St. Louis Zoo with a gun as he pledged to do this weekend.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty issued a temporary restraining order against 56-year-old Jeffry Smith of Cincinnati. It’s in effect until a hearing June 22.
Smith planned to go armed to the St. Louis Zoo on Saturday afternoon to test the legality of the site’s firearms ban. Although Missouri law bars guns in gated areas of amusement parks, he questions whether the zoo fits that description as a public, taxpayer-supported place.
The Missouri law that deals with the issue appears to be 571.107 RSMo.  It does not "bar" guns in gated areas of amusement parks.  It allows proprietors of such facilities to ban the concealed carry of firearms there.  The law is very clear:
 Carrying of a concealed firearm in a location specified in subdivisions (1) to (17) of subsection 1 of this section by any individual who holds a concealed carry permit issued pursuant to sections 571.101 to 571.121, or a concealed carry endorsement issued prior to August 28, 2013, shall not be a criminal act but may subject the person to denial to the premises or removal from the premises.
It is clear that the open carry of firearms is not covered by this law.

In addition, the law itself may be subject to challenge under the recently passed Amendment 5, which strengthened the Missouri Constitutions protection of the right to keep and bear arms.   Here is the amendment that passed last year.  From

"Section 23. That the right of every citizen to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of his home, person, family and property, or when lawfully summoned in aid of the civil power, shall not be questioned. The rights guaranteed by this section shall be unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny and the state of Missouri shall be obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the general assembly from enacting general laws which limit the rights of convicted violent felons or those adjudicated by a court to be a danger to self or others as result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.
An absolute ban on the carry of weapons in a publicly owned facility, without any physical barriers to entry with weapons, such as metal detectors or armed guards, would be an interesting test case for the constitutional amendment.

Jeffry Smith has repeatedly asked the Zoo administration to cite a statute that gives them the authority to ban weapons at the zoo.  The closest that they come is the above statute that grants certain entities the power to ban concealed firearms, by people with a concealed carry permit.

While the Zoo administration claims that the zoo is an "amusement park",  a child care center and associated with schools, all of those exceptions under the law tend to be a stretch, when you read the actual statute and definitions.  In any case, the Missouri law only applies to concealed weapons, not openly carried weapons.

The Zoo's response was to obtain this temporary restraining order:

The entire restraining order, in pdf format, is available here.  Here are the reasons the Zoo administration gives to justify the restraining order:

In the context of the Constitutional amendment, it is the Zoo administration that is "chilling" the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms on the public property that it administers.    Banning the legal carry of weapons in the Zoo clearly has a "chilling effect" on many.  The Zoo administration's personal prejudices against the carry of weapons seem unlikely to prevail in a court case.

Many see the request for a temporary restraining order as a desperate measure on the part of the Zoo administration.  The Zoo administrators even claim that a ruling against them will do "irreparable harm".

In a sense, that is true.  People who break the law are done irreparable harm by the rule of law and the criminal justice system every day.   Law breakers often resort to restraining orders to protect themselves from people who wish to see them investigated and the law enforced.

Here is the Facebook page for the event that is being organized to challenge the Zoo administrator's legal authority to ban the exercise of the right to bear arms at the Zoo.   Second Amendment attorneys might wish to contact Jeffry Smith.

 ©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I do not see how they can single out fire arms or use the catch all weapons to deny entry. a person with a black belt in martial arts has to register their hands as deadly weapons. they have no power to make a person leave their hands off of the property. technically if a person with a black belt in martial arts puts their hands in their pockets they are carrying concealed weapons. so who checks that? There is no definition in the constitution or the second amendment that describes what a weapon is. So If you can tell me that a park maintenance mans screw driver can not be used as a deadly weapon, you would be wrong. What if a maintenance man attacked you with his screw driver or hammer should you be able to defend yourself? A park entry gate does not remove your right to self defense. Open or concealed are words that do not appear in the second amendment. In this case the words open carry do not appear in the law. so open carry is not forbidden.