Our own Mile Stollenwerk is a HERO!

From the Lancaster Online: http://local.lancasteronline.com/4/202864

A hero in fight for guns rights, privacy
Former county man filed suit when he was asked to provide Social Security number to buy a gun. Now, his efforts are winning national acclaim.

Lancaster New Era

Published: Apr 13, 2007 2:46 PM EST

LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa - Michael Stollenwerk, a former Lancaster County resident who wears a loaded pistol strapped to his hip in restaurants, is becoming somewhat of a folk hero in the guns-rights movement.

Pennsylvania State Police have dropped their appeal to a court victory Stollenwork won in February 2006 that says residents don't have to reveal their Social Security numbers when purchasing guns or applying to carry a concealed firearm.

It was Stollenwerk, 44, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, who got angry when he was denied permission to buy a handgun at a Columbia sporting goods store and a permit to carry a concealed weapon from the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office — both because he refused to give his Social Security number as proof of identification.

The former Mountville resident and Penn Manor High School grad hired Lancaster attorney Dwight Yoder and sued the sheriff and Pennsylvania State Police, which runs the state's gun-check system.

A U.S. District Court judge in Philadelphia agreed with Stollenwerk's contention that being forced to provide one's Social Security number is a violation of the federal Privacy Act of 1974.

Driver's licenses and other forms of identification are adequate, the court ruled and awarded Stollenwerk $48,000 from state and county taxpayers for legal fees.

"The unnecessary overuse of our Social Security numbers is what I object to," Stollenwerk said Thursday while picking up his daughter from school in Fairfax County, Va.

"Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974 because there was a growing concern that Social Security numbers were being used as a national ID number."

Stollenwerk, who is studying to be a lawyer at Georgetown University, says people have legitimate concerns about identity theft if Social Security numbers fall into the wrong hands.

He also thinks widespread dissemination presents a national security risk, as terrorists could use them.

"There's also just a darn privacy issue," says Stollenwerk, who co-founded a Web site, http://www.opencarry.com, that defends the rights of people in most states to openly carry loaded firearms in public.

"(Franklin D.) Roosevelt said in the 1940s that no one will ever know your Social Security number. People have a right to be known by their name, and not a number," he says.

The court ruling was hailed by many sportsmen in Pennsylvania and beyond, who fear identity theft and invasion of privacy by giving out their Social Security numbers.

But Pennsylvania State Police initially appealed the ruling. The sheriff did not. Now, state police have dropped their appeal.

The court ruling has been embraced by guns-rights and privacy advocates. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Nebraska and Kansas have amended their procedures so that Social Security numbers are no longer required when applying for concealed weapons permits.

Still, Stollenwerk may have some battles to overcome in Pennsylvania.

Though State Police have notified gun dealers they do not have to require Social Security numbers to do background checks for gun sales, the agency has not posted warnings to that effect in guns shops or on forms for weapons-carrying permits.

In fact, State Police interpret the court ruling to mean that state police can't require the numbers, but individual gun dealers still can, spokesman Jack Lewis said today.

"That is incorrect," replies Stollenwerk. "The gun dealers, when doing checks, are acting as agents of the state."

At the Lancaster County Courthouse, special forms noting the option of using Social Security numbers are now attached to applications for permits to carry concealed firearms.

Stollenwerk personally has checked several area gun dealers about compliance with the court ruling.

The owner of the Trop Gun Shop in Elizabethtown sent a letter of thanks to Stollenwerk after he pointed out the store was not posting notices about Social Security numbers being optional.

But recent checks of Bass Pro Shops in Harrisburg and the Cabela's store in Hamburg showed agents were still requiring Social Security numbers from those purchasing firearms, Stollenwerk reports.

Sportsmen in Pennsylvania still must give their Social Security numbers for hunting, trapping and fishing licenses. That was an exception to the Privacy Act passed by Congress several years ago in an attempt to catch spouses not paying child support.

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