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AG Ken Paxton Has Sued the State Fair of Texas

The Texas Attorney General alleges that the State Fair violated the law by denying off-duty police officers carrying firearms entry to the fair.
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Bad news for Big Tex.

Updated at 7:50 p.m. to include comment from the State Fair of Texas.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed suit against the State Fair of Texas last week, alleging that the organization violated a law that allows police officers to carry their firearms inside the fairgrounds even if they are not on duty.

The suit, which was filed on February 23 in Dallas County district court, accuses the State Fair of denying at least two off-duty officers entry with their weapons after they displayed their credentials. 

When reached for comment, State Fair spokesperson Karissa Condoianis said that the suit had “just been brought to our attention,” and they were unaware of the details of the alleged incidents.

“The State Fair of Texas takes seriously its legal obligations to allow peace officers to lawfully carry their weapon at the fairgrounds,” she said. “To that end, the State Fair requires at least one Dallas Police Officer to be posted at each admission gate to check credentials and ensure compliance. This policy allows peace officers to deal face-to-face with fellow peace officers to ensure compliance and safety for all our guests.”

Condoianis said that the organization would now look into the incidents to see how they unfolded.

According to the State Fair’s website, only people who are licensed to carry a gun are allowed to bring their weapon to the fairgrounds, and it must be concealed. The law Paxton cites in the suit says that armed, licensed peace officers are allowed entry to a variety of establishments—restaurants, bars, retail establishments, sports and entertainment venues—”regardless of whether the peace officer is engaged in the actual discharge of the officer’s duties while carrying the weapon.”

The suit says that on October 8, 2022, Abilene Police Department Lt. Michael Perry was not allowed to carry his gun into the fair as he tried to enter Gate 1. In February 2023, Paxton’s office sent a letter to the city of Dallas, which then sent it to the State Fair. By the end of the month, both the city and the fair had responded to Paxton’s office, saying that they would comply with the law.

But on September 30, 2023, an Ector County Hospital District Police captain, Tommy Jones, also tried to enter the fair with his weapon to attend the State Fair Classic game. Paxton says Jones was also not allowed to bring his weapon in.

It is unclear how Paxton was alerted to the incidents, but there is a link to a report form on the Attorney General’s website.

The fairgrounds at Fair Park are owned by the city and operated by Fair Park First. The State Fair of Texas is the nonprofit entity that operates the event for three weeks each fall by leasing the fairgrounds. The suit only names the fair.

The suit is at least the second filed by Paxton regarding the law. On February 21, he filed a similar lawsuit against the Lucky Duck, a San Antonio bar. In both suits, Paxton is seeking to collect a $1,000 fine for each violation of the law, as well as attorney fees and other court costs.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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