A recent set of Facebook videos by state Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, in which he attempts to defend constituents’ gun rights have drawn attention for what appears to be an instance of the lawmaker profiling fairgoers who “were kinda different looking.”
Christensen took to Facebook recently after he said a constituent reached out to him with concerns over the Eastern Idaho State Fair’s signage regarding gun regulations.
Videos posted on Chad Christensen for Idaho Facebook page show Christensen went to the fair looking for a fight over gun rights. But he seemed flummoxed when no one at the fair’s ticket office tried to stop him from buying a ticket even though he had a pistol holstered at his waist.
Then Christensen circled back to the ticket booth to ask them about signs posted on the ticket booth that state: “No firearms or dangerous weapons permitted on the fairgrounds unless permitted under Idaho State Law.”
The woman working the ticket booth directed Christensen to the fair office where he met with Brandon Bird, the fair’s general manager. In the video, Bird and Christensen agreed that no laws are being broken with regard to gun rights. Christensen brings up the sign that is outside the ticket gate which he said can be misleading for gun owners.
“Is there something wrong with the sign? Why would it say anything different,” Bird said in the video. “We’re doing our best to maintain safety within state code.”
Bird tells Christensen in the video that both men are aligned in their mission to maintain a safe environment at the fair.
At the end of his video sting, Christensen concludes fair officials were acting within the law, but he insisted the signage was confusingly vague.
The videos are otherwise notable because Christensen, whose Legislature biography says he is a former parole officer and a welfare fraud investigator, appears to profile some fairgoers as possible criminals based on their appearance.
“We just saw a group — they seem like gangsters, driving by us, going in the fairgrounds,” Christensen said in the third video summarizing his experience at the fair. “I’m not trying to stereotype anyone, but being ex-law enforcement that’s kinda the impression I got. They were kinda different looking and they could cause trouble. You know what I mean, people like that, getting in there, causing trouble and the law-abiding citizens are there, armed and ready to go if they need to.”
In a follow up email from the Teton Valley News, Christensen further explained what he meant when he described people as “gangsters” and “different looking.”
He said he could see a driver who had a tattoo on his face. “It was ‘MS,’” he wrote in an email to the TVN. “I could also see one of them in the back with an ‘MS’ tattoo on his neck. During my law enforcement experience that usually indicated that a person is with the MS-13 gang. I have hardly ever seen people with the ‘MS’ tattoo …. so yes, it is different and it was very alarming to me. It concerns me that MS-13 has more of a presence in East Idaho.”
MS-13 is a brutal Salvadoran gang. In a Sept. 4 post on Christensen’s Facebook page, he said that the driver of the car was Caucasian.
Bingham County Sheriff Craig Rowland said Friday that there are a few “wannabe” MS-13 gang members in East Idaho, but in terms of an established MS-13 gang in East Idaho, “There isn’t one.”
The incident marks the second time Christensen has created a dustup over gun rights. During the Legislative session in February, Christensen drew criticism when calling for the boycott of a Boise restaurant after its owner told Christensen’s group their open-carry firearms were making customers and staff nervous.