I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Texas ain’t all it’s cracked up to be gun-wise. Sure, it has the image as a virtual frontier days Dodge City where every pardner amblin’ down the sidewalk sports a six-shooter, but the Lone Star State’s gun control laws place it roughly in the middle of the Second Amendment rights freedom continuum. Or they did before the legislature passed open and campus carry bills in the last few days. Don’t get me wrong, I just moved from very gun-friendly St. Louis (open carry, no 30.06 signs, “gun-free zone” designations that carry no force of law) to Austin, so I’m happy to deal with the new (to me) restrictions. But imagine my surprise when I read in my home town paper that . . .
the St. Louis Zoo has gone to court to exclude all firearms — open carry and concealed — from its grounds.
Gun rights advocate Jeffry Smith says he won’t be packing heat as he originally planned when he heads to the St. Louis Zoo on Saturday. Smith, 56, of the Cincinnati area, says he believes the zoo has failed to prove its ban on guns and other weapons is legal, but he will not defy a city judge’s order barring him from entering the zoo with a firearm. He had planned to go armed with a holstered .45-caliber handgun Saturday afternoon — and invited other armed zoo-goers to join him— to test the zoo’s policy, a move that has put the St. Louis Zoo in the crosshairs of the gun rights debate in Missouri.
Pay no attention to the Post-Dispatch. There really isn’t much of a gun rights debate in Missouri. The legislature overrode Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of an open carry expansion last year and there’s been very little sturm or drang ever since. Unless, you know, you include Ferguson and its knock-on effects on criminal activity in the city of St. Louis, which has given the usual Democrat machine suspects new impetus to advocate for more 2A restrictions.
Missouri law lists a select few venues where 2A rights can be abrogated. And the Zoo is contorting itself like a nauseated python in order to argue that it now qualifies as a no-go zone for gas.
In its filing seeking the restraining order, the zoo argued it qualifies as at least four types of public spaces where state law says concealed carry of guns can be restricted: “educational institutions, day care facilities, amusement parks and where a business open to the public chooses to restrict the carrying of firearms by posting signs.”
The zoo’s filing describes its educational mission, an on-site pre-school that “utilizes the entire 90-acre campus of St. Louis Zoo as its classroom,” and camps and field trips for adults and schoolchildren. It also describes “amusement rides/attractions” such as a carousel and the railroad.
Uh huh. Throw out that fourth one, gun-free zone signs posted by businesses open to the public mean nothing in MO. Educational institution? If the local kitchenware store gives a cooking class, does that make it a school? The gym where I (fairly) regularly worked out offered child care so the moms in yoga pants could pump iron and do the downward dog. Does that make them a daycare facility in the eyes of the law?
Which leaves “amusement park.” Funny thing: I’ve strolled through the publicly-ownwed St. Louis Zoo many times — sometimes while carrying a hidden heater (I saw no signs prohibiting it) — and I never once noticed the log flume or roller coaster. Must have missed them.
Smith says the zoo, by its own description, is “a government agency” and “clearly isn’t an amusement park,” which he sees as profit-making businesses on private property.
A group opposed to guns at the zoo was organizing a protest to counter Smith’s event Saturday.
The signs at the zoo drew attention after a man from Springfield, Mo., said he was asked to leave the zoo on Memorial Day after asking about the signs. Sam Peyton, 40, said he left his own handgun in his car in compliance with the signs but still wore his empty inside-the-waistband holster. He said he and wife visited the zoo, and as he left, he asked security guards about the signs.
They asked if he was armed, and he told them he only had the empty holster. They then asked him to leave, Peyton said.
Nice. Smith doesn’t seem like one to back down, but we’ll see. If both sides push this one hard enough, it could very well end up in the Missouri Supreme Court where the black-robed solons may scratch their chins over what features a park must have before it’s considered the same as, say, Six Flags. Is a teeter-totter enough? How about a merry-go-round? Good times.