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Civil Liberties

Iowa Permits Blind People to Carry Guns in Public

September 8, 2013 by Brett Wilkins in Civil Liberties with 0 Comments

The state of Iowa is granting permits to legally or completely blind people allowing them to carry firearms in public.

The Des Moines Register reports Iowa state law prohibits authorities such as county sheriffs from denying residents the right to bear arms based on physical disability, even if they cannot see. Unlike driving, another activity which common sense would seem to clearly bar the blind from participating in, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right of all Americans to bear arms. Additionally, barring the blind from obtaining and carrying guns would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told the Register.

Still, some public safety advocates are understandably questioning the wisdom of allowing people who cannot see to carry, and therefore potentially use, guns.

“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware Sheriff John LeClere told the Register. “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.”

But  Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington disagrees. He demonstrated to the Register how the blind can indeed be taught to safely handle and shoot guns. Wethington, who has a legally blind daughter who is planning on obtaining a permit to carry a gun when she turns 21 in a couple of years, says he will provide firearms training to blind residents of his county who wish to arm themselves.

“If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals’ hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be more productive,” Wethington told the Register.

Advocates for the visually impaired expressed mixed feelings about having blind people carry weapons in public. Some echoed Wethington’s confidence in the ability of the blind to learn to carry and shoot guns safely and effectively. Others weren’t so sure.

“Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly all life’s experiences, there are some things, like the operation of a weapon, that may very well be an exception,” Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, told the Register.

While some other states, including Nebraska and South Carolina, require applicants for firearms permits to prove that they can see, others facilitate the arming of blind citizens. In Texas, for example, legislators passed a 2007 law, approved by Republican Gov. Rick Perry, designed to help legally blind people hunt. A similar law exists in Michigan as well, where in 2009 a legally blind woman made headlines after killing a black bear in the Upper Peninsula. Wisconsin and Ohio also issue hunting licenses to blind people.

 

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