11/14/01 Illegal Campaign Mailing

Gun Owners Support Action Against The County of Berks and the Berks County Sheriff For the Illegal Use of Confidential CCW Permit Holder Information

For Immediate Release
November 14, 2001
Contact: John Velleco

Gun Owners Foundation has awarded a Litigation Assistance Grant to Jerry W. Schaeffer in support of his stand against the County of Berks and the Berks County Sheriff, Barry Jozwiak, for their illegal use of confidential information provided by Berks County CCW Permit Holders. Gun Owners of America, with its more than 300,000 members, also fully supports Mr. Schaeffer.

“This is a blatant attack on the privacy rights of gun owners,” said Larry Pratt, Executive Director of GOA. “We are asking the Berks County Commissioners to institute and conduct an investigation into how this breach of confidences occurred, and as to who exactly was responsible for allowing it to happen.”

On 14 September 1999, Jerry Schaeffer instituted suit in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas against Sheriff Jozwiak and the County of Berks alleging that confidential information was used for the mailing of a fund-raising letter — a so-called “posse letter” — from Jozwiak’s political campaign for re-election. The letters solicited contributions to Jozwiak’s 1999 campaign for re-election.

Under Pennsylvania’s Firearms Act, 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6111(i), all information provided by an applicant for a CCW permit shall remain confidential and not subject to disclosure. Contained therein is a statutory, mandatory civil penalty of $1,000.00 per person for violation of the confidentiality provision. Over 23,000 persons in Berks County were affected by the actions alleged within Schaeffer’s Complaint. On 16 March 2001, Judge Barry Feudale certified the action as a $28 million dollar class action. To date, less than 115 class members opted not to participate in the suit.

Despite overwhelming evidence that 99.9% of all Berks County CCW permit holders, including thousands whose names and addresses could not have been derived from any source other than from a master list of Berks County CCW permit holders, were targeted by the illegal campaign mailing, Jozwiak and the County continue to deny wrongdoing, Jozwiak remains in office, and the County has failed to investigate how such a breach of public trust occurred.

The confidentiality provisions of the Firearms Act were intended to prevent just this type of abuse. “It is abhorrent that the integrity of the information of CCW permit applicants has been so blatantly compromised by Jozwiak and the County” said Mr. Pratt. Schaeffer, through his attorney, Joseph A. O’Keefe, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, has vowed to take this matter as far as is necessary to vindicate the over 23,000 persons whose rights have been violated.

— GOA —