NewsThe SouthSider

Zoo wants gun activist who fought its ban to pay legal bills

ST. LOUIS (AP) — After successfully defending its weapons ban in court, the St. Louis Zoo is now trying to force the gun rights activist who challenged the ban to pay part of its $150,000 in legal bills.

Jeffry Smith

The zoo filed a request for its request for legal fees in August, but a judge has yet to rule on the motion. An attorney for Jeffry Smith of Cincinnati, the activist, called the motion “ludicrous.”

A St. Louis judge ruled last year that the zoo could ban guns on its property because it qualifies as a school and a gated amusement park under state law. The ruling came after a series of appeals in a 2015 lawsuit the zoo filed against Smith after he announced plans to challenge the gun ban by marching on zoo property while openly carrying guns.

After the zoo sought a restraining order against Smith, the planned protest with guns never happened, although Smith still came to the zoo wearing an empty holster on his shorts.

One of the zoo’s lawyers, Adam Hirtz, said Smith should pay at least a portion of the zoo’s legal bills because he created the controversy.

Smith’s attorney, Jane Hogan, said the zoo could have avoided the lawsuit in the first place by simply enforcing its policy against Smith instead of going to court. Hogan also argued in court filings that the zoo’s gun ban shouldn’t have been upheld in court, and Smith believed he was within his Second Amendment rights to carry a gun into the zoo.

“They’re being grossly unfair,” Hogan said.

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