A judge on Friday granted the St. Louis Zoo a restraining order against a gun rights activist planning a march at the zoo on Saturday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Jeffry Smith, who organized an open carry march in downtown St. Louis last year, said he planned on carrying firearms into the zoo on Saturday in order to protest the zoo’s policy banning weapons. He invited others to join him on the gun rights demonstration and created a Facebook event for the protest.
Missouri state law prohibits firearms from amusement parks, but Smith said that the zoo may not fit into that category because it’s taxpayer-funded and public, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“That signage, unless it’s backed up by case law or statutory law, is nothing more than the zoo’s attempt to reinforce their biases and to deceive people into not exercising their rights,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “This is not about protecting oneself from the wildebeests in the zoo. This is about the zoo deceiving people into thinking they don’t have that choice.”
Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Friday that he was on his way to St. Louis from the Cincinnati area with his .45-caliber Taurus handgun. And as of Friday afternoon, more than 40 individuals responded in the Facebook event that they would attend.
After Smith’s announcement, law enforcement in St. Louis scrambled to block his ability to bring a gun to the zoo.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson told CBS St. Louis that he had asked attorneys to see if police could keep the protest outside of the zoo.
The St. Louis Zoo then asked for a temporary restraining order against Smith and “anyone acting in concert with him” to keep him and others from entering the zoo with firearms or other lethal weapons.
On Friday, Circuit Judge Joan Moriarty signed a temporary restraining order against Smith, and a court date for the matter is set for June 22, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It’s not clear whether the restraining order will stop Smith.
He told the Post-Dispatch that the restraining order was a victory.
“I consider this a win,” Smith said. “It’s a win in that they have finally shown their hand.”
He may still attempt to enter the zoo without a weapon, but with a holster. Smith was inspired to organize the protest after another gun rights activist, Sam Peyton, was told his empty gun holster was forbidden at the St. Louis Zoo, according to the Post-Dispatch.
As of Friday afternoon, a message on Smith’s Facebook event noted that the details of the challenge to the zoo’s weapons policy may change:
*** The time/date and the exact nature of this challenge may change ***, so please keep an eye on this event page for the latest news and schedule, because communications with the Zoo and the authorities are ongoing.