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Osceola County target of lawsuit

SIBLEY, Iowa -- A complaint filed in Iowa federal court contends Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber acted illegally when he denied Paul Dorr and his son, Alexander, a permit to carry a weapon, but an answer by the attorney representing Osceola County has not yet been filed.

The class action complaint, filed Oct. 28, states it is filed by Paul and Alexander Dorr "individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated." Paul Dorr had been able to obtain a permit to carry since 2001, but in 2007 his application was denied, as was his 2008 application.

A notice filed Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett gives either party a notice that they have 10 days after the last defendant files an answer or motion to dismiss in which to file a recusal motion to have Bennett removed from the case.

In the notice, Bennett states he has received several e-mails in the past years from Paul Dorr via the e-mail address "Rescue the Perishing," to which the judge has responded.

"Most of the e-mail correspondence advances a conservative agenda which I personally disagree with," Bennett wrote. "I have expressed, on more than one occasion to Mr. Dorr that, while I often disagree with his advocacy, I have great respect and admire his First Amendment right to express his often unusual views."

In the complaint, Paul Dorr claims to have met all the statutory criteria necessary for the issuance of the permit to carry a weapon, but was denied.

To be eligible for a nonprofessional permit to carry a weapon, a person must be 18 years of age or older, have no felony convictions, no alcohol or drug addictions and no history of repeated acts of violence. In the fifth subsection of Iowa Code 724.8, which the Dorrs suggest is unconstitutional, it states a permit can be issued if "the issuing officer reasonably determines that the applicant does not constitute a danger to any person."

Count VII of the complaint calls subsection 5 of the Iowa Code 724.8 "overly broad and vague."

"The permit requests were denied without justification," the complaint states. "Sheriff Weber, the Osceola Sheriff's Department and Osceola County acted illegally in denying Dorr his permits to carry a weapon, meaning that the decisions were unreasonable, not authorized and contrary to the terms, spirit and purpose of the statute ..."

Denying the permits, the Dorrs said, infringes on their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The 14th Amendment states, "Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This right is also being infringed upon, the Dorrs said.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, more than 28,000 permits were issued in 2007 in Iowa, with 140 of them coming from Osceola County. Weber, who would not comment on the suit itself, said only three or four applications were denied in 2007, perhaps even less.

In the complaint, Paul Dorr is described as being engaged in controversial public issues in Iowa, exposing him to threats against him for holding or supporting certain views and opinions. He has participated, it states, in public debates and meetings where citizens have threatened him with physical harm.

When he was denied a permit in 2007, he met with Weber and was told Weber had a problem with Paul's application. Weber allegedly said he had heard different things from citizens who claimed there was fear of Paul Dorr, but did not provide any specific names or documentation.

"Sheriff Weber stated to (Paul Dorr) that he did not feel comfortable issuing the permit and did not trust him," the complaint states.

Alexander Dorr, 18, was allegedly told the sheriff would take another look at his application when he turned 21. Paul's wife, Debra, applied for and was granted a permit to carry.

"As a result of Sheriff Weber's actions," the complaint states, "the Dorrs have suffered damages and this court should grant relief to them ..."

Even though the complaint was filed on behalf of Paul and Alexander Dorr, the relief requested is that the court directs the Osceola County Sheriff's Department to "immediately issue a nonprofessional permit to carry a weapon to Paul Dorr."

The complaint also asks that, if a jury verdict is in their favor, the court declares Iowa Code 724.8 (5) unconstitutional, that Paul be entitled to all attorney fees and costs, and any other relief the court deems just and equitable.