PRIMGHAR, Iowa -- U.S. District Court Judge Mark W. Bennett has ordered Osceola County Sheriff Douglas L. Weber to issue a gun permit to a resident and to complete a college-level course involving the First Amendment.
Bennett’s written decision on Wednesday involves the case of Paul Dorr, of Ocheyedan, who was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Dorr and his son, Alexander, were denied gun permits after being engaged in extensive First Amendment activity -- protesting, passing out leaflets and writing letters to the editor -- the opinion notes.
“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 at least Paul Dorr,” Bennett wrote in his ruling.
Dorr said Wednesday that he was pleased “justice is served. I get my permit back and the sheriff is being sent back to school. The harm done by Sheriff Weber against the 6th and 9th commandments has been made right."
The elder Dorr had been issued a concealed weapons permit from the late 1990s to 2005. But his July 7, 2007, application for a permit was denied. His son’s was denied a year later, when he was 18 years old.
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Weber’s reason for disapproving the application was, “concern from public. Don’t trust him.” The following year Weber also denied Alexander Dorr’s application for a permit and informed Paul Dorr that he would deny any further applications from him.
Weber testified that he had heard people refer to Paul as “a whacko, delusional, a nut job, a spook, and narcissist,” Bennett’s decision noted. “Regardless of the adjective used to describe Paul, however, Sheriff Weber stated that Paul’s ‘lousy’ reputation was due to his political activities of writing letters to the editor and distributing fliers.”
The ruling continued, “Giving Sheriff Weber more deference than is due his elected status, the court finds that Sheriff Weber denied Paul’s application for a concealed weapons permit not because of the content of his First Amendment activity but because it was effective and agitated many members of the local community.”
And, Bennett said, “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 ...
"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."
However, Bennett’s decision did not favor Dorr’s son, who was 18 years old when he applied for the carry permit, and is 20 now. Bennett noted that sheriffs have the discretion to withhold permits from anyone under majority age.
Bennett required Weber take a class that must be a college-level course on the United States Constitution, “including -- at least in part -- a discussion of the First Amendment.” And Bennet said, Weber must obtain approval from the court before participating in the class. Upon completion of the class, Weber must also file anan affidavit with the clerk of court showing successful completion with a passing grade.
A request left with the dispatcher at the Osceola County law enforcement center, requesting a return call for comment from Sheriff Weber, was not returned, Wednesday night.