A 2011 change to Iowa gun permit regulations allowing visually impaired residents to legally carry firearms in public now has state lawmakers and law enforcement personnel in a quandary as more legally and completely blind people apply for weapons permits.
While the gun control act of 1968 does not prohibit blind people from owning gun, and denying a blind person may violate their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, some state laws regulate the circumstances in which someone can receive a weapons permit. However, Iowa doesn’t allow sheriffs to deny a resident the right to carry a weapon based on physical ability.
An article from the Des Moines Register says the exact number of visually impaired or legally blind people legally allowed to carry weapons in Iowa is unknown because the state doesn’t collect that information. But officials in Polk County say they’ve issued three weapons permits to people who couldn’t drive or read the application forms because of visual impairments, and sheriffs in other counties say they’ve given permits to people who they think have severe visual impairments.
The discussion even has those known to discourage differential treatment based on blindness scratching their heads. Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, says the issue may be a rare exception to his philosophy that blind people can participate fully in life. Even musician Stevie Wonder weighed in on the debate last January when he told CNN, “Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy.”
“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware Sheriff John LeClere said. “At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect to fire a firearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then I would say you probably shouldn’t be shooting something.”
Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, thinks differently.
“There’s no reason solely on the (basis) of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon,” Danielsen said. “Presumably they’re going to have enough sense not to use a weapon in a situation where they would endanger other people, just like we would expect other people to have that common sense.”
What do you think?