Lawmakers and law enforcement officials in Iowa are debating the merits of issuing blind citizens permits to acquire and carry concealed firearms. The legality of such permits is unquestionable: state law doesn’t allow sheriffs to discriminate on the basis of physical ability. Moreover, as Jane Hudson, the executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told the Des Moines Register, preventing the blind from the right to obtain weapons or public carry permits would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But many, including Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, Sergeant Jana Abens, a spokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff’s office, think “it seems a little strange.”
“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,” Clancy told the Register.
Complicating the issue is that unlike driving, which is considered a state-granted privilege, gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right. Preventing the blind from owning guns may not only violate their special protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but their constitutional right to bear arms. Whether they can carry guns in public, however, is not a clearly defined constitutional matter.
One problem that proponents of allowing the blind to carry weapons is the legal definition of “blindness” in Iowa. The state has three legal designations: legally blind, functionally blind, and visually impaired. Sheriffs aren’t necessarily qualified to know the difference.
“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.”
Watch a video from the Des Moines Register: