By JIM HOOK Senior writer

Greg Rotz, a Chambersburg man who wore his handgun to a polling place on Election Day, got his gun permit back Tuesday in Franklin County Court.

"The court finds he did not violate any law," President Judge John R. Walker said. "His permit should be returned to him as soon as possible."

In front of the judge, county sheriff's solicitor Patrick Redding took Rotz's permit to carry a concealed weapon from the file and handed it to Rotz's attorney Steve Rice, who presented it to Rotz. Nearly all of the 60 people in the courtroom applauded.

Minutes later Rotz retrieved his handgun from a nearby vehicle and wore it at his side as his supporters applauded outside the courthouse. Some came from five hours away. Many carried their firearms openly, as permitted by Pennsylvania law.

Sheriff Dane Anthony said about 25 people checked their guns with his office as they walked into the courthouse.

"There were no problems. There were no questions," Anthony said. "Everyone was cooperative."

Gun rights advocates had discussed Rotz's plight on several Internet forums and raised about $3,000 toward Rotz's legal fees.

In November, then-Sheriff Robert Wollyung revoked Rotz's permit to carry a concealed weapon after Rotz wore it openly to the New Franklin polling place on Nov. 6. Rotz exchanged words with Constable Gerald Speilman.

The constable had asked Rotz to secure the gun in his vehicle and Rotz would not. Rotz appealed the revocation.

"I understand not everyone agrees with me philosophically," Rotz said after the hearing. "But when you're in law enforcement, you can't use your office to impose personal opinion. I expected to prevail, but I know there are no guarantees." Because Walker ruled without taking testimony, the law was clear on the issue, Rotz said.

Walker made his ruling after meeting with the two attorneys for about 15 minutes "to save a long hearing." The entire hearing lasted a half hour.

Walker said that if someone is convicted of a crime, his or her license should be revoked. That was not the case here.

"Why are we wasting time? Order in the court," Walker said, both sentences in the same breath.

Walker said people cannot take firearms into schools or a courthouse, then asked the attorneys if they had found any laws prohibiting guns in a polling place.

"I have found absolutely nothing saying you can't carry a firearm into a polling place," Redding said.

Walker said Rotz did not need a permit to open carry, but he would "personally contact" his legislator about firearms in polling places.

"If we have people walking around polling places with guns, it starts looking like a Third World country, Venezuela or something," Walker said.

The remark did not sit well with Rotz supporters after the hearing.

"I don't agree with the idea," said Tom Rowe, a Rotz supporter from McKees Rocks. "I agree with the process."

Those attending, however, were impressed with Walker's no-nonsense command from the bench. They came down strongly on the side of Walker's decision to return Rotz's permit:

- "I think that's the decision that should have been made from the start," said Sam Myers of Newville.

- "It's a win-win for everybody, especially law-abiding gun owners in Pennsylvania," said Douglas Boldt, an Erie man and vice president of the Pennsylvania Firearms Owners Association. "We are pleased with the judicial decision."

- "The young man had his license to carry revoked for one man's opinion and not the law," said Jinks Heistand of Cumberland County. "We're a land of laws. We're looking for sheriffs and police officers who know the laws and enforce them. We want people to understand the law, enforce the law and not their opinions. That's a perfect world."

- "It gives us clarification on how a sheriff can revoke a concealed permit," said Rob Conrad of West Scranton.

- "(Rotz) should have been cited if something was wrong, not have his license revoked," said Ted Hughes of West Pittston. "A lot of Pennsylvanians have to stand together to do this and protect our rights."

- "I want to see what laws were broken," Bill Shriver of Chambersburg said before the decision. "I don't understand why we're here."

- "It's a shame we live in a free society and elected officers are willing to trample out rights," said Theodore Deardroff of Shippensburg.

- "I find it complete insanity that Greg was doing something completely legal and they revoked his right to carry," Rowe said.

- "(Rotz) was wrongfully accused of an act which most people don't realize is perfectly legal," said Aaron Cool of Waynesboro. "There's a lot of misinformation floating around."

- "The poor guy (Rotz) was doing what he was able to do," said Dan Dorman of Greencastle, who openly carried his weapon Tuesday in support of Rotz. "The Second Amendment is the only one that guarantees the others."

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Jim Hook can be reached at 262-4759 or [email protected].