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.’ ”

Source: Jennifer Jacobs for the Des Moines Register.

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