A man from Ohio is planning to go to the “no weapons allowed” Saint Louis Zoo with a visible firearm to prove he can openly carry a gun into a place that doesn’t allow them.
Make sense? Yeah, not so much. Jeff Smith hails from Ohio, and since he can legally carry a gun into public properties thanks to Missouri law, he thinks the “no weapons allowed” signs at the Saint Louis Zoo are full of crap and they should allow him entry anyway.
His reasoning? Missouri allows people to openly carry firearms if they are legally allowed to do so, and since the Saint Louis Zoo is publicly owned, it should default to the state law, zoo rules be damned.
He’s planning to enter the zoo tomorrow, June 13, which will likely be a pretty busy Saturday full of families enjoying a nice, early-summer day out. Since he has announced his plans in advance of his visit, local law enforcement has already weighed in. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson says he is consulting with the city counselor’s office to find out what the law entails and what they will tell Smith when he tries to gain entry with a gun on his belt.
It looks like he may be out of luck, according to specifics written into Missouri law. While you can try carrying a gun onto property where the business has disallowed it, if you’re asked to leave, you have to. If you don’t, you may be escorted off the property for trespassing and fined. And as of this morning, the zoo has asked the court for a temporary restraining order against Smith and anyone else planning to enter the zoo for this demonstration.
Despite this controversy here in Missouri, where I live, I think demonstrations such as this make participants look like hostile a**holes. If it turns out that you can parade through this zoo with a visible firearm, does that mean you should? Families who see such “demonstrations,” especially if they don’t know about it beforehand, might be completely freaked out if they see someone toting a gun at the zoo. “It’s a bad idea,” says Stephanie, who lives in the St. Louis area. “People are scared enough for their kids as it is. If I was there and saw that, I’d get my family out and then call 911.”
It will be interesting to see how this turns out, but I have yet to understand why a person from Ohio would want to make such a bold statement in Missouri and cause controversy at such a great (and free!) zoo occupied by thousands of children.