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Gun Show Groups Blocked from Montgomery Suit

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page C05

A federal appeals court has ruled that a gun show promoter and an exhibitor have no standing to challenge a Montgomery County law that denies funding to facilities that display and sell firearms.

The decision Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reverses a lower court's ruling in favor of the promoter, Frank Krasner Enterprises Ltd., and the exhibitor, RSM Inc.

Until the law was passed, Krasner, of Frederick, leased space for gun shows twice a year from the Montgomery County Agricultural Center in Gaithersburg, a privately owned, nonprofit organization that received about $500,000 from the county over 10 years.

County officials said they were pleased with the decision. Options for Krasner and RSM include going to the U.S. Supreme Court or asking the full 4th Circuit to review the ruling by the three-judge panel.

"We felt all along that we had the legal authority to regulate gun shows in Montgomery County," said David Weaver, a spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D). "We appreciate the fact that the court agreed with that assessment and upheld our law. This was a community safety and a public safety issue."

In May 2001 the County Council voted to withhold funds from any organization that allowed the display and sale of guns on its property. When the agricultural center informed Krasner that it could no longer rent space to him, he sued.

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis decided in Krasner's favor in October 2001, ruling that the county could not impose the regulation within the city of Gaithersburg. State law allows municipalities to ignore some county ordinances.

Two years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit decided that the judge should have addressed the county's contention that the gun show promoters lacked standing to sue in federal court. It returned the case to Garbis, who ruled that Krasner and RSM could sue. The county appealed.

In Friday's ruling, written by Judge Roger Gregory, the panel found that the gun show organizers could not sue because they were indirectly affected by Montgomery's law. The ordinance had a direct effect on the center, which chose not to participate in the lawsuit, Gregory wrote.

"Krasner is once-removed from the county's actions and the Ag Center's rights -- whatever they may have been -- and RSM Inc. is still another link down the broken chain of causation, and this is all too much for us," Gregory wrote. "Thus the appellees lack standing."

Krasner, whose Silverado firm continues to run gun shows across Maryland, said he would consider challenging the decision.

"In spite of all this, Silverado Gun Show continues to put on the best-run and most law-abiding shows in the state of Maryland, and we stand on that record," Krasner said. "As I've said before, the Montgomery County ordinance -- it was politically motivated, and it is a solution looking for a problem."

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