County enters Festival gun fray

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County is wading into the simmering feud over the Festival at Sandpoint’s prohibition of weapons at its annual summer concert series.

The Festival announced at the start of this season that it would be stepping up its security protocols to comply with the contractual obligations of the artists who perform at the event. The Festival has never allowed firearms, although a reminder of the prohibition touched a nerve with Second Amendment advocates who argue it violates their rights.

Idaho law forbids cities and counties from prohibiting firearms on public property, which advocates say applies to War Memorial Field, a venue owned by the city and leased to the Festival.

The Festival declined to budge on its policy and the city said event organizers were free to regulate their own policies while the annual lease was in place.

Davillier Law Group, a Sandpoint firm representing the county, is challenging the city of Sandpoint’s position and calling City Attorney Will Herrington to unpack the city’s case for supporting the Festival’s policy.

Davillier attorney D. Colton Boyles contends that the city’s enforcement of a categorical denial of ticket-holding patrons solely for firearms possession conflicts with Idaho’s general laws and violates clearly established constitutional and statutory rights, in addition to state and federal due process rights.

“I am further concerned that the Sandpoint Police Department officers, who consistently provide valuable services to our community, are at risk of being subjected to suit individually without the benefit of the defense of qualified immunity each time they enforce, under color of law, the prohibition of firearms on public property (with or without a lease with the city of Sandpoint,” Boyles said in to Harrington on Thursday.

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, meanwhile, has said it is examining all legal options in response to the Festival’s firearms prohibition.

“While the Festival claims that, as a lessee, it has the right to prohibit firearms, the simple fact is that the city, as a lessor, cannot delegate a right or authority to a lessee which it does not itself possess,” ISAA President Greg Pruett said in a statement.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee

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