Hearing in gun ban lawsuit scheduled for Feb. 25

By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff

Court documents show that Bonner County has filed a motion to stay its lawsuit against the city of Sandpoint, which challenges the legality of The Festival at Sandpoint’s weapons ban at city-owned War Memorial Field. 

The motion, filed Feb. 11 in Bonner County District Court, would halt proceedings in the case until further notice and will be taken up at a status conference scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the Bonner County Courthouse. 

According to Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler, a plaintiff in the case, both he and the county wish to pause the lawsuit until the Idaho legislative session ends in order to see whether lawmakers address the issue of how firearms preemption intersects with lease law. 

No bills on the topic have been introduced during the current session, though such a bill has been confirmed to be in the works sponsored by Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett.

“What I’ve asked is that we stay this lawsuit until the Legislature gets out of session to see if it’s going to be addressed … and if it is, it will be moot for us to go forward,” Wheeler said.

Bonner County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bauer said that the county is requesting the court stay the matter for 45 days “in the interest of judicial economy and to save taxpayers money” while they wait to see what happens at the state level.

“If the matter is not stayed, the county feels the money necessary to resolve the dispute through the court process is necessary to prevent an armed standoff occurring at The Festival,” Bauer told the Reader.

The status conference hearing Feb. 25 will be the second time the matter has come before Kootenai County District Court Judge Lansing L. Haynes.

Scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Bonner County Courthouse, the hearing is meant to be a meeting between attorneys and the judge, during which a timeline for further proceedings is to be set. The original conference for the case, scheduled for Nov. 26, was postponed due to illness. The first official conference took place Jan. 28 — a brief proceeding during which legal counsel for Bonner County presented an amendment to the original complaint, and those representing Sandpoint requested an extension to review the amendment.

Wheeler filed the amendment to the complaint, telling the Reader on Feb. 3 that the move was intended to reorient the complaint away from requesting an interpretation of the law to instead focus the issue on reducing ambiguity for law enforcement in order to provide public safety. He said that as the law is currently interpreted, law enforcement response to an armed individual attempting to enter The Festival might not be uniform between county and city officers.

Wheeler said he believes the amendment to the complaint puts the county in “better standing” in the lawsuit.

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