Today was going to be the day that Missouri gun rights activists planned to put the St. Louis Zoo to the test. In an clearly organized event meant to bring attention to Missouri statutes limiting places a concealed carrier may bring his or her weapon, organizer Jeffrey Smith’s event has been cancelled due to a restraining order. That restraining order was filed by Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty, whereby the hearing will take place on June 22.
It’s a clear measure meant to delay the question: why can’t you take your concealed carry firearm to the zoo?
One of the provisions of Section 571.107.1 of Missouri Weapons statutes and regulations states a limitation on carrying a concealed firearm onto the premises of:
(13) Any gated area of an amusement park. Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on the premises of the amusement park shall not be a criminal offense so long as the firearm is not removed from the vehicle or brandished while the vehicle is on the premises;
Jeffry Smith, et al., contend that the St. Louis Zoo does not qualify as an amusement park nor an elementary school.
For Jeffry Smith, however, this resistance is nothing new. In October of 2014, he organized a march through downtown St. Louis to demonstrate Missouri’s recent legislative changes to open carry. Prior to those laws passing in August, cities had the ability to regulate where and when someone could open carry.
Note: In Missouri, concealed carriers are allowed to open carry a firearm on their person so long as it is not displayed in an angry or threatening manner (Section 571.037).
St. Louis Zoo Struggles to Find Legal Ground to Stand
Zoo officials contend that the same statutes governing the prohibition of concealed carry weapons on the premise of primary education schools also extend to the zoo. They also used the definition of an amusement park – the presence of a railroad ride – to squeeze into that caveat as well.
This whole affair began, though, back on Memorial Day when Sam Peyton, 40, walked into the zoo with just his empty holster. He told St. Louis Post-Dispatch that on his way out, he asked security guards about the “no firearm” signs posted. The security guards asked if he was armed, to which Peyton claimed he had an empty holster. It was then he was asked to leave the premises.
Peyton’s dismissal from the St. Louis Zoo drew the attention of gun advocate Jeffry Smith from Cincinnati. A public accountant, Jeffry has been extremely interested in gun rights issues affecting the people of Missouri.
First organizing a protest date of June 12th, he later had to cancel the event as planned when St. Louis Zoo officials filed a restraining order against him.
Smith said the restraining order is actually a victory.
“I consider this a win,” he said. “It’s a win in that they have finally shown their hand.”
Smith says the zoo “clearly isn’t an amusement park” and that the law the zoo has cited to back up its policy applies only to concealed weapons, not those openly carried in a hip holster.
His last march, in October of last year, proved to be a welcome benefit to educate the folks of St. Louis of their newly acquired liberties. It was met with a mixture of vitriol and anger from some protesters of Amnesty International, but ultimately the march occurred with no issues.
Why, then, are the administrators of the St. Louis Zoo so afraid of allowing another peaceful march to take place?
More importantly, do they have a legal leg to stand on or is this just another case of legislating from the bench from a circuit court judge?