A decision by organizers of the Norman Music Festival to ban weapons during the upcoming three-day event in the Oklahoma college town prompted a lawsuit Wednesday by a gun rights group whose members want to carry their firearms at the outdoor concert.
The Oklahoma Second Amendment Association filed a lawsuit in Cleveland County seeking to stop the ban from taking effect during the free festival on April 23-25 in a four-block area of downtown. The association claims the city has no right to prohibit people with a gun license from carrying concealed or even openly displayed firearms on city streets and sidewalks.
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City of Norman Assistant City Attorney Rick Knighton said organizers of the festival, the nonprofit Norman Music Alliance, have been granted a special-event permit that allows them to establish their own rules.
"You get to determine what the rules are with regard to entry to your event," Knighton said. "One of their rules, when they're in control of that area, is no weapons."
In a statement, the Norman Music Alliance said under its agreement with the city, it qualifies as a business owner and as such is allowed to request that customers not carry weapons. The festival in Norman, which is home to the University of Oklahoma, draws tens of thousands of people and alcohol is served at the event. The alliance noted that state law prohibits people from carrying a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or in places where alcohol or low-alcohol beer is sold.
"Guns and alcohol do not mix well. The Norman Music Alliance does not want to put conceal carry music fans in danger of ... felony charges because they carried in a place where low point beer is served," the statement said.
Don Spencer, vice president of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association, said he agrees that no one carrying a weapon should be drinking, but that his right to carry a firearm in public is protected by state law.
"We're sticking up for our rights," Spencer said. "They're discriminating against a peaceful person."
Regardless of what a judge decides, Spencer said he plans to carry his weapon to the concert.
"We will peacefully carry," Spencer said. "We will peacefully not resist any officer, and we will take it up in court."
Knighton said he hopes that if a judge upholds the weapons ban, the plaintiffs will comply.
"It would resolve a lot of anxiety if there was a commitment from the other side that whatever the court rules, they're willing to abide by it," he said. "If the court says you can't have weapons, respect it and go on down the road."
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