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Court rules that justification form that accompanies gun permits not public record

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  1. Freedom of Information
Court rules that justification form that accompanies gun permits not public record 05/03/1994 IOWA -- A sheriff has no duty…

IOWA — A sheriff has no duty to maintain weapon permit justification forms, so that part of the application to carry a gun is not public record, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in late April, refusing to force a sheriff to collect the justification forms he returned to gun applicants after a lower court ordered them disclosed.

However, the high court said, “we express no opinion as to the wisdom” of the sheriff’s recently changed policy of returning the forms to applicants.

The justification forms contain applicants’ detailed reasons for wanting a permit in their own words, whereas the actual permits only contain an abbreviated justification for issuance.

Robert Ray Clark, who was denied a gun permit by Appanoose Sheriff Gerald Banks, sued Banks in district court in Centerville in April 1991 for access to records dealing with the issuance of firearms. About a week after the judge’s February 1992 order to make the documents available, while Clark was negotiating copying charges, Banks returned the forms to the applicants. The judge refused, upon Clark’s request, to find the sheriff in contempt of the earlier order.

Clark sought review in the Iowa Supreme Court, alleging that Banks returned public records to the applicants in an attempt to prevent copies of those records from being made. Clark asked the court to order Banks to recover the documents.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sheriff, saying that the duty to keep firearm permit records was transferred in 1978 from sheriffs to the commissioner of public safety. The weapons permits and revocations, kept by the commissioner are the only public records, the court said.

“The permanent public record appears to contain at least some version of the justification information upon which a sheriff relies,” the court said. “The public is thus provided an avenue of scrutinizing the conduct of those charged with issuing firearm permits.”

(Clark v. Banks; Robert Ray Clark, Centerville, pro se)

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