Judge rips sheriff for rejecting gun permit

This is a great victory for us… imagine that, having to force a Sheriff to uphold the Constitution… no wonder a lot of people don’t like the police…

This is a re-post from the Des Moines Register:

A federal judge has lambasted an Iowa sheriff for denying a gun permit to an outspoken government watchdog and anti-abortion advocate whom some in the area considered “weird.”

It was wrong for Osceola County Sheriff Douglas Weber to deny Paul Dorr of Ocheyedan a permit to carry a concealed weapon three years ago, according to a court ruling issued Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett also ordered Weber to successfully complete a court-approved course on the U.S. Constitution within five months.

“In denying (Dorr) a concealed weapons permit, Sheriff Weber single-handedly hijacked the First Amendment and nullified its freedoms and protections,” Bennett wrote in the ruling.

Anger over the sheriff’s denial of the gun permit was a factor in inspiring some grass-roots activists to push for changes to Iowa’s weapons law. Starting Jan. 1, a new law requires sheriffs to issue gun permits except under a narrow set of circumstances.

Bennett ruled that Weber’s denial of Dorr’s gun permit in 2007 trampled his free speech rights because the sheriff was retaliating against Dorr for publicly protesting, passing out leaflets and writing letters to newspaper editors on a variety of topics.

“The court finds a tsunami, a maelstrom, an avalanche, of direct uncontroverted evidence in Sheriff Weber’s own testimony to conclude beyond all doubt that he unquestionably violated the First Amendment rights of … Paul Dorr,” Bennett wrote in the decision.

“This is a great reminder that the First Amendment protects the sole individual who may be a gadfly, kook, weirdo, nut job, whacko and spook, with the same force of protection as folks with more majoritarian and popular views,” he added.

Reached by telephone Thursday, Weber said he had nothing to say about the judge’s ruling.

Weber previously said he denied Dorr’s gun permit because he believed there were people in the county who were afraid of Dorr.

Dorr has been arrested and convicted multiple times outside Iowa for a variety of nonviolent offenses connected with protests at abortion clinics, such as blocking doors, according to court records.

Court documents in the gun permit case state: “Through the years, Sheriff Weber heard comments about (Dorr), which related to him being ‘weird.’ ”

But the judge on Wednesday ordered the sheriff to immediately issue Dorr a nonprofessional permit to carry a weapon.

Thursday, Dorr said he is still waiting to hear that his permit is ready.

“I’m not in any big hurry,” Dorr, 54, said with a laugh. “I’ve been waiting for it for three years.”

Weber, a deputy or sheriff in Osceola County since 1979, has long known the Dorr family, court documents state.

Beginning in the 1990s, Dorr, father of 11 children, carried out anti-abortion activities with a group called Rescue the Perishing. His activities stretched into South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Georgia and Virginia, records show.

In spring 2007, Dorr asked for information on the compensation and duties of the deputies in the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

He received the sheriff’s policy and procedure manual, but he was “also provided with a large bill for the copies,” the judge stated. Dorr was billed for 90 minutes of photocopying, plus a fee of 10 cents per page for more than 200 pages of documents, court records state.

Dorr successfully obtained gun permits from the late 1990s to 2006. Weber was sheriff for two of those years.

But in July 2007, Weber turned him down. Weber wrote on the application: “Concern from Public. Don’t trust him.”

Weber testified that after Dorr began to work with a group that challenged the county budget, “People started talking about it, saying things like, ‘Oh, that guy’s a nut job. Oh, that guy’s whacko.’ ”

Dorr said he applied for the permit to carry a concealed weapon because he supplemented his income as a consultant by selling balloons along the routes of a parade in Sioux City. In doing that work, he or his relatives sometimes carried as much as $1,500 in fanny packs, he said.

In 2008, one of Dorr’s sons, Alexander, applied for a permit to carry a weapon permit, saying he helped with the balloon business and had gotten death threats connected to his family’s anti-abortion advocacy. Weber denied the son’s permit and informed Dorr that he would deny any further applications from him.

Both Alexander and Paul Dorr argued that Weber’s denials of their applications were the result of their advocacy against county spending, court testimony showed. The judge agreed.

“Dorr was denied a permit precisely because Sheriff Weber believed that his free speech rights offended the majority of voters in Osceola County,” Bennett wrote in his ruling.

Alexander Dorr also sued in October 2008. Bennett ruled Wednesday that Weber didn’t retaliate against him in turning down his gun permit because he was 18 at the time and his age made the sheriff’s concerns “understandable.”

The Dorrs waived claims for punitive damages.

“This is just one story of very, very many stories like it all across the state,” said Paul Dorr’s son, Aaron.

Aaron Dorr is executive director of Iowa Gun Owners, a grass-roots group organized in 2009 to strike the “may issue” section of the state gun permit law. That law says “any person who can reasonably justify going armed may be issued” a permit.

After intense lobbying, the Legislature earlier this year approved legislation that says a sheriff can deny a permit only for a narrow list of reasons.