Festival gun suits continue

As one lawsuit begins the appeal process, the other awaits an April court date

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Two lawsuits in progress against the city of Sandpoint regarding the weapons ban at War Memorial Field during the annual Festival at Sandpoint concert series are both currently awaiting their next court dates.

The first suit, brought in 2019 by Bonner County commissioners and Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, saw its initial conclusion in September 2020, when Kootenai County District Court Judge Lansing L. Haynes ruled that the county lacked standing. The city made a motion for nearly $95,000 in attorney costs and fees, which the judge granted in part in December 2020. In the meantime, counsel for Bonner County filed an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, arguing that Haynes failed to rule on the core legal issue: Can a lessee of public city property, in this case The Festival at Sandpoint, legally ban firearms? 

An unidentified individual carrying a firearm outside the gates at the Festival at Sandpoint in 2019.
Photo by Racheal Baker.

Bonner County argued throughout the case that if Haynes didn’t rule on the constitutionality of the gun ban, Second Amendment activists would gather at The Festival’s gates during the next concerts to protest, and an “affray” would occur. County attorney Amy Clemmons, of Davillier Law Group, told the Reader in December: “Absent a court decision on this issue, protests of the gun ban are anticipated.”

Court documents indicate that further dates in the appeal case have not been set.

Happening in tandem is another case against the city and Festival regarding the nonprofit arts organization’s gun policy, this one brought in May 2020 by area residents Scott Herndon and Jeff Avery; Boise-based gun rights lobby group Idaho Second Amendment Alliance; and the Second Amendment Foundation, based in Bellevue, Wash. The second suit argues that the weapons policy violates state firearms preemption law — which strictly limits the regulation of firearms by state or municipal governments — as well as the Second, Fourth and 14th amendments.

Herndon and Avery both attempted to enter the 2019 Festival at Sandpoint with firearms, and were turned away by Festival security personnel.

While a trial was originally scheduled for the case in February 2021, Herndon told the Reader that the court’s schedule was “upset” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and both parties agreed to postpone. Court documents show that Haynes — also the judge in the Herndon case — will now hear a motion for summary judgement from The Festival at Sandpoint on Monday, April 26 and 1:30 p.m.

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