View Full Version : Big win for gun owners privacy

28 Feb 06,, 22:56

Big win for gun owners' privacy
Former Mountville man successfully challenges state law requiring Social Security numbers for buying guns.

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The growing revolt by Pennsylvania gun owners and sportsmen against handing over their Social Security numbers may have a new poster child.

It’s Michael Stollenwerk, a former Mountville resident and retired Army lieutenant colonel.

In 2003, the 42-year-old was not allowed to buy a handgun at a Columbia sporting goods store when he refused to provide his Social Security number for the state’s instant background check run by state police.

A few days later, he was refused a gun-carrying permit by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department when he declined to give up his Social Security number.

So he sued.

On Monday, a federal district judge agreed with Stollenwerk’s argument that such requirements violate the federal Privacy Act.

Judge Juan R. Sanchez’s ruling struck down Pennsylvania’s law that controls the sales of guns in the state and who may carry them.

“I feel great. I think we’re benefiting all citizens in Pennsylvania when it comes to privacy of their Social Security numbers,” Stollenwerk said this morning from Washington, D.C., where he is a law student at Georgetown University.

Stollenwerk emphasized that “this was a privacy case, not a gun case. And, of course, state governments can continue to regulate the purchase, transfer and license the carrying of guns if they want to. They just have to follow federal Social Security number privacy laws when carrying out such schemes.”

Noting the increasing risk of identity theft, Stollenwerk said the case “is about privacy in the information age.”

The decision could have far-reaching impact on other controversies involving the use of Social Security numbers in the state.

Most notably, sportsmen have mounted a campaign to get the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to drop the Social Security number requirement in order to buy a hunting, trapping or fishing license.

The Game Commission says hundreds, if not thousands, of sportsmen have refused to buy hunting licenses since the agency began requiring Social Security numbers about a year ago.

The agency, as well as the PFBC, maintain they are required to do so by the federal 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, which attempts to locate parents who refuse to pay child support.

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum earlier this month introduced a bill in Congress to eliminate the requirement for hunters and fishers around the nation.

And the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this month passed a resolution urging President Bush and Congress to exempt hunters and fishers from the requirement.

At least as it pertains to buying and carrying guns, the state is under no obligation to require Social Security numbers, Stollenwerk and his Lancaster attorney, Dwight Yoder, argued before the court.

The federal gun check law does not require it, saying the information is optional, they say. But, for some reason, Pennsylvania officials chose to require Social Security numbers when they set up their own background-check system.

Without going to court, Stollenwerk successfully challenged a California requirement that he provide his Social Security number when he imported his guns to that state.

When he applied for a concealed weapon permit in Virginia, he refused to give his Social Security number. He was granted the permit, but was later ordered to court to explain his actions. The judge agreed with Stollenwerk’s argument and Virginia’s forms now note that Social Security number information is optional.

Stollenwerk thinks Pennsylvania residents may be giving out their Social Security numbers against their will in other cases.

“To me, this is really a big issue in Pennsylvania,” he says. “It’s almost inane that the government needs your Social Security number every time you turn around or go to the bathroom. I’m thinking this case will move us along.”

01 Mar 06,, 01:36
Thank you Michael for having the courage to stand up and right a wrong when it would have been much easier to "let it ride".

01 Mar 06,, 04:16