TeeJaw Blog

Small Victory For Freedom

Posted in Government and Politics, Gun Rights by TeeJaw on Saturday, July 10, 2010, 11: 30 AM

Man denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon by the sheriff of Osceola County, Iowa wins his case in Federal District Court which orders the sheriff to issue the permit, and to take a class on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The case is Dorr v. Weber.

Under Iowa’s discretionary CCW statute, which is due to be replaced by a new statute of the “shall issue” type on January 1, 2011, Iowa sheriff’s could issue or not issue CCW permits at their discretion. The permits are good for only one year and the permit holder must apply for a new permit every 12 months. From the late 1990’s until 2005 Mr. Dorr had applied for and been granted a CCW permit by Sheriff Weber on an annual basis. In 2007 Dorr’s application for a permit was denied. Dorr sued the sheriff on the theory that he denied Dorr’s application in retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights as an abortion protestor.

Dorr had been quite vocal against abortion for several years. His protests included writing letters to the editor of he newspaper, handing our leaflets and flyers, blocking the entrance to abortion clinics, and other non-violent activities to raise public awareness of the number of abortions being performed in Iowa and the nation. He had been arrested and convicted of various non-violent misdemeanors. He had no history of violence of convictions of violent crimes. He was considered by many members of the public as a crank, kook, whack job, etc.

Sheriff weber gave a deposition that provided proof to the court of the validity of Dorr’s claim because the sheriff laid out the reasons for the denial, all of which were directly related to Dorr’s exercise of his first amendment rights in criticizing public policy on abortion rights.

The Court opened its written decision, as follows:

After a one day bench trial, the court is called upon to decide whether Defendant Sheriff Weber’s decision to deny Plaintiff’s . . . application for [a] concealed weapons permit was in retaliation for exercising [his] First Amendment rights. Paul Dorr . . . engaged in extensive First Amendment activity like protesting, passing out leaflets, and writing letters to the editor. Although determining what went on in a decision-maker’s mind is almost always a daunting challenge, the sheriff’s honest, credible, forthright, truthful, and consistent testimony makes this task unusually simple. 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.

Sheriff Weber wrote on Dorr’s 2007 application, as the reason for disapproving the application: “Concern from Public. Don’t trust him.” In his deposition he admitted that it was Dorr’s abortion protesting that was the basis of the denial, and that there was public concern about him, which led the sheriff to distrust him.

The Court concluded:

In denying Paul a concealed weapons permit, Sheriff Weber single handedly hijacked the First Amendment and nullified its freedoms and protections. Ironically, Sheriff Weber, sworn to uphold the Constitution, in fact retaliated against a citizen of his county who used this important freedom of speech and association precisely in the manner envisioned by the founding members of our Nation who ratified the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. In doing so, this popularly elected Sheriff, who appears to be a fine man and an excellent law enforcement officer, in all other regards, blatantly caved in to public pressure and opinion and, in doing so, severely trampled the Constitution and Paul’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. 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.

For these reasons, the court finds Paul has proved that Sheriff Weber denied his application for a concealed weapons permit in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. Therefore, the court, having found Paul proved a claim of First Amendment retaliation, will order Sheriff Weber to reconsider, and approve, Paul’s application for a concealed weapons permit.

Colorado had a discretionary issue CCW law until 2003 when it adopted a shall-issue type statute. Under the old law the 63 sheriffs of Colorado had made a diverse patchwork of policies regarding the issue of permits. Some sheriffs issued to any citizen that met certain objective criteria while others adopted all sorts of weird criteria or issued only to their political cronies. One sheriff of which I was familiar would interrogate an applicant’s neighbors until one was found that might say something derogatory about the applicant and use that as the basis for denial. Discretionary CCW statutes are well springs for all sorts of official abuse and their further demise should be welcomed by all who love freedom and honesty in government.

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