Sheriff Carl Nace is defending himself against a lawsuit by county auditors seeking personal information about concealed carry holders within his jurisdiction of Perry County, Pennsylvania.
State law holds that all information for a license to carry a firearm is confidential and free from public release.
The county auditors, however, maintain they are exempt from this, and they want the names and addresses of local permit holders to crosscheck and verify permits issued and money paid with the individual to whom the records indicate the permit was issued.
“The Sheriff contends that he is restricted from releasing the info by a provision of the Uniform Firearms Act that prohibits release of the information ‘to the public,” the auditor’s attorney Craig J. Staudenmaier said in a statement.
“The Auditors are not ‘the public.’ We disagree that this provision prohibits him from providing the requested information to the auditors,” Staudenmaier said.
After repeated requests for the records by the auditor met with noncompliance from Nace, they filed a lawsuit to force him to turn his files over, which they maintain will be returned once the audit is complete.
The sheriff is not making any comments due to the pending litigation but, if local support is any indicator, he doesn’t have to.
The community, it would seem, stand firmly behind their elected chief law enforcement officer in his opposition to the auditor. An estimated 200 concerned citizens appeared at the county court house Monday, many taking an opportunity to publicly speak to Perry County commissioners about Nace’s stand.
“It is my understanding that we could end up paying for both lawyers and that is sad,” County Commissioner Paul Rudy said during the outpouring of support. “I have not seen any change of heart with the auditors. I wish they had been here today because I think they would have gotten a better picture of what the people feel and that they are wasting their money, they are wasting the taxpayer’s money.”
A Facebook page set up for supporters of Nace has ballooned to nearly 2,000 likes since its establishment earlier this week. Some advocates are openly calling for counter-suits against the auditor.
Besides grass roots support, gun rights attorneys are showing interest in his case. Second amendment scholar Joshua Price, sent the auditor a letter on behalf of Firearm Owners Against Crime advising the official of what he felt was the illegality of disclosing permit information. Price is currently representing a class action lawsuit pending against the City of Philadelphia for disclosing confidential concealed carry information — the same matter at stake in Perry County.
Meanwhile, the commissioners have allocated $2,000 in county funds to pay an independent solicitor to evaluate the case.