BamaCarry: Sumiton tried to get around gun laws

By RICK WATSON
Posted 2/13/20

SUMITON – Sumiton will research more on the right to ban open carry of weapons, Mayor Petey Ellis said  in response to the lawsuit against the city concerning open carry at the annual Frog …

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BamaCarry: Sumiton tried to get around gun laws

Posted

SUMITON – Sumiton will research more on the right to ban open carry of weapons, Mayor Petey Ellis said  in response to the lawsuit against the city concerning open carry at the annual Frog Festival on Main Street.

BamaCarry filed the lawsuit in Walker County Circuit Court on Thursday, Feb. 6. The Alabama gun rights group is suing Ellis for records the organization claims may show the city leased public property to private entities to circumvent state gun laws.

Ellis said that the city plans to do further research on the question of whether it has the right to ban the open carry of weapons at the annual festival.  

"I'm not against the Second Amendment. Everybody carries guns," Ellis said, adding the city doesn't intend to infringe on anybody's rights. "But we want to be within our own rights. If we're allowed to do that (ban open carry), which we thought we were and think we are, we're going to continue doing it."

He went on to say that if the law says the city can't do it, then they won't continue the ban.

According to the lawsuit, Ellis did not respond to the group's requests for public records, including documents related to any leases at past or future Frog Festivals, documents related to public notices, documents of all tax incentives, tax abatements, grants, or other economic incentives to benefit private individuals related to the festival and minutes of meetings about the requested items.

According to the suit, Sumiton posted signs saying guns were prohibited during the 2018 Frog Festival. In February 2019, an individual petitioned the Attorney General, who corresponded with the city but took no further action because the festival had already occurred. 

The city then "attempted to circumvent Alabama law and to prohibit firearms at the 2019 Frog Festival," the suit states.

"The plaintiff and its members also learned the city of Sumiton may have leased out municipal property to vendors to circumvent Alabama law," the lawsuit claimed, adding that BamaCarry followed up its initial records request with a letter in January 2020 but did not receive the documentation.

Besides the documents, BamaCarry is seeking the court to rule that "Alabama citizens will benefit from the disclosure of the requested public records," along with awarding them costs for attorney's fees and "such other relief as the court deems necessary and just.”

In 2014, members of BamaCarry questioned the legality of the city of Jasper posting signs at the Foothills Festival stating that weapons were not allowed in the area of the event.  City officials requested an attorney general's opinion on the issue, which resulted in the signs no longer being posted. 

The opinion, written by then-Attorney General Luther Strange, concluded that the city could not prohibit the carrying of firearms at its festival and specifically could not lease public streets to private vendors in a way that would allow them to exclude firearms.