Saturday, June 19, 2010

Permit denial decision (updated)

SIOUX CITY -- After less than a full day of testimony in U.S. District Court, Presiding Judge Mark W. Bennett issued a ruling from the bench this week that found Osceola County Sheriff Douglas Weber's denial of an Ocheyedan, Iowa, man's application for a gun permit constituted First Amendment retaliation, according to court documents.

Bennett's written order in the civil action is to follow.

Paul Dorr and his son Alexander, then 18, filed suit in 2008 after Weber turned down their concealed-weapon permit applications.

Paul Dorr said Friday he believed Weber denied his application because he was working as a paid consultant with the Osceola County Taxpayers Association, which was fighting public safety budgets, including those of the sheriff's and county attorney's offices.

Weber could not reached for comment Friday. His Sioux City attorney, Douglas Phillips, said he would not comment until he had seen the judge's order.

In his 2008 response to the lawsuit, Weber wrote that he was using his discretion as sheriff to determine whether or not the men should get gun permits. Osceola County residents' fear of bullying, harassment and intimidation by Paul Dorr was a legitimate basis for the denial, he wrote.

Judge: Sheriff violated man's 1st Amendment rights in denying gun permit
"Bullying, harassment and intimidation..." - interesting.

This case is a perfect example of the flaws we have in Iowa and the whole asking permission philosophy regarding permits to carry. A sheriff can deny if they think you can't be responsible or if they "foresee" a crime in the future.

The new permit process that will start January 2011 will not change the fact that sheriffs still have some discretion when a permit comes in. There is an appeal process that may not take three years to wade through, but discretion was not removed from the law.

(Updated) Paul Dorr is the father of Aaron Dorr, Executive Director of Iowa Gun Owners. I spoke with Aaron on June 19th at the Iowa Gun Owners Freedom Rally and he gave a few more details about the case. This was the first time Judge Bennett ever ruled from the bench. In the judge's remarks, it was such a clear-cut case of a violation of Mr. Dorr's rights, that he didn't bother going to chambers.

From Aaron and his brother's comments, it's not clear the sheriff understands what he did wrong. The judge is ordering the sheriff to attend instruction on First Amendment rights. Punitive damages could be awarded, but is not being sought.

It would seem that Mr. Dorr's lawsuit was about the principle, and not money.

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