Published January 13, 2015
No one could see this coming.
Iowa is giving people who are blind permits that will allow them to purchase guns or to carry firearms in public, the Des Moines Register reports.
The permits are legal, as Iowa law does not deny anyone the right to carry a weapon based on physical disability.
But, the paper reports, the dilemma comes for law enforcement officials who are trying to ensure public safety.
Advocates for the disabled are split over the decision.
Some insist blind people can be taught to use guns, and blocking any visually impaired person from obtaining a weapons permit would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Still, others say owning a gun may be the one exception where the blind should be treated differently than individuals who have their sight.
It’s not new for Iowans who are visually impaired to own guns and even hunt, according to the Des Moines Register. But what’s different is that changes in the law in 2011 now make it possible for them to carry firearms in public.
“It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can’t deny them (a permit) just based on that one thing,” said Sgt. Jana Abens, a spokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff’s office, referring to a visual disability.
“When you shoot a gun, you take it out and point and shoot, and I don't necessarily think eyesight is necessary,” said Michael Barber, who is blind, as he examined a gun using only his hands at a Bass Pro Shop in Altoona last month.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 and other federal laws do not prohibit blind people from owning guns. Some states, however, do consider vision in issuing permits.
In Nebraska, applicants for a concealed carry permit must provide “proof of vision.” According to the paper, a 50-state database of gun permit requirements published by USACarry.com also shows that South Carolina has a law that requires proof of vision before a person is approved for a weapons permit.
In Missouri and Minnesota, applicants must complete a live fire test, which requires the shooter to hit a target.
The issue of the blind carrying guns was one addressed by musician Stevie Wonder, who is blind.
“Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy,” Wonder told CNN while calling for reforms to what he has previously called “ridiculous” gun laws.