Bonners Ferry theater faces blowback for policy banning weapons

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

The drama over so-called “gun free zones” has spread from Sandpoint — where for months county and city officials have sparred in court over The Festival at Sandpoint’s no-weapons policy on public property — to a performance venue in Bonners Ferry.

The Pearl Theater, a nonprofit operating on private property, recently drew the ire of a number of area residents outraged that its board of directors had decided to institute a prohibition on firearms at its facility and events.

In hundreds of Facebook comments on a Bonners Ferry community forum, opponents of the theater’s policy poured out their anger, with some suggesting The Pearl had no legal right to prohibit firearms from its venue, and others vowing to attend events there armed with concealed firearms regardless.

In response, theater board members released a statement Feb. 19 explaining why the policy — which was approved six weeks ago — had been put in place. 

According to the statement, the action was taken at the advice of the theater’s insurance carrier, and after consulting with local law enforcement and legal counsel, in order to “ensure the safety of performances and guests, and to reduce liability.”

As with The Festival at Sandpoint, Pearl Theater directors noted that many artists request a weapons-free environment in which to perform. What’s more, The Pearl hosts a number of events in conjunction with Boundary County School District 101, “which has a zero-tolerance weapons policy at all its facilities, specifically for student safety.”

The Reader attempted to reach out to one of the most vocal opponents of The Pearl’s weapons policy via an intermediary, but received no response.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement has stood by the theater’s policy.

“The Pearl Theater is a private entity and it is the board’s right to make that decision,” Bonners Ferry Police Chief Brian Zimmerman said in the statement from the board. “I support their choice. They serve alcohol, and in my experience, alcohol and weapons are never a good mix.”

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.