Idaho News

In Idaho, you can take your gun to town, and to the county fair

When Idaho Second Amendment Alliance President Greg Pruett heard that Canyon County Fair security was telling people they could not bring firearms into the fair, he quickly headed over there, open-carrying a handgun on his hip.

The rumor proved true: On July 25, several security guards told Pruett that he could not bring his firearm into the event. Pruett told them that they were wrong because the county cannot ban firearms at a fair on public property.

Pruett is right.

Under Idaho law, cities and counties may not ban firearms or other weapons on publicly owned property. The exception is for courthouses, jails, juvenile detention centers and public schools.

When it comes to private property, such as stores or theaters, it is up to the property owner to decide whether to allow firearms or other weapons.

The Canyon County Fair in Caldwell, the Western Idaho Fair in Boise and dozens of other fairs slated this summer across the state take place on county-owned property, which means firearms are allowed.

The same is true for county- or city-owned parks and event centers; firearms are allowed.

As long as the person carrying the firearm is not a felon or otherwise legally prohibited from having a firearm, there is nothing cities and counties can do to restrict firearms on public property.

When Pruett confronted Canyon County Fair Director Diana Sinner about the ban on guns, she told him that fair security was wrong. She quickly contacted the private security firm working at the entrance gates and informed them not to turn away anyone carrying firearms.

Pruett videoed his fair encounter and posted it to his organization’s social media site.

“The issue seems to have been resolved. There have not been any issues since,” Pruett told the Statesman on Wednesday. “Somewhere along the line there was a disconnect in the communication of what the law allows people to do.”

Canyon County spokesman Joe Decker told the Statesman that the matter has prompted an “internal review.”

“All persons entering the fair are subject to a screening and/or bag search,” Decker said, noting that security also is looking for drugs or other banned items. If a weapon is found, Decker said, “if it is permitted under law, then they will be allowed entry.”

The Western Idaho Fair takes place Aug. 16-25 at the Ada County-owned fairgrounds at Glenwood Street and Chinden Boulevard. Ada County spokesperson Elizabeth Duncan said the county follows state law and will not prohibit firearms.

Constitutional carry

Pruett also took issue with a sign at the Canyon County fair’s entrance listing things that are prohibited, including “possession of a weapon except as otherwise allowed by law.”

The way the sign is worded implies that weapons are banned with a few exceptions, Pruett said, when actually it is the other way around — weapons are allowed with a few exceptions. “The sign is deliberately deceptive,” he said.

Not only does Idaho law allow firearms to be carried nearly everywhere, but it also allows all adult residents to carry them without a permit.

Idaho became a constitutional carry, also called permitless carry or unregulated carry, state in 2016.

This means any Idaho resident 18 or older may carry firearms or other weapons without a permit anywhere in the state as long as the person is not a felon or otherwise legally prohibited from having firearms.

When the law was passed three years ago, it came with an exception: 18- to 20-year-olds could not carry a handgun within city limits. In March, the Idaho Legislature passed a bill on party-line votes and that exception went away. This new law allowing 18- to 20-year-olds to conceal carry handguns in cities went into effect July 1.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.