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Blind faith: Iowa grants gun permits to the visually impaired

Blind faith: Iowa grants gun permits to the visually impaired
Iowa is issuing gun permits to the blind, allowing legally blind applicants to purchase and carry weapons in public. Under state law, a bid to deny a blind Iowan their Second Amendment rights due to physical disabilities would be illegal.

Amendment rights due to physical disabilities would be illegal.

“When you shoot a gun, you take it out and point and shoot, and I don’t necessarily think eyesight is necessary,” president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa told the Des Moines Register.

“If someone is attacking me, I’m going to be able to hear what they’re doing, and if I need to use the weapon, I’ll use the weapon,” Michael Barber added.

Scott Olson / Getty Images / AFP
In one Iowa County, blind residents who want to get hold of weapons would receive special training. Sheriffs in several Iowa counties, such as Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware, have reportedly granted permits to residents with serious visual impairments.

“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.”

The National Federation of the Blind is not in favor of laws that require vision tests as part of weapon permit processes. 

“There’s no reason solely on the [basis] of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon,” the director of public relations for the group told the Iowa newspaper. “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,” Chris Danielsen added.

The Gun Control Act of 1968 and other federal laws do not prohibit blind people from owning guns. However, each US state has different rules governing gun permits, stating whether visually impaired people can obtain weapon permits. For instance, Nebraska and South Carolina require applicants for gun permits to show "proof of vision" presenting a valid state driver’s license or a statement from an optician.

In Missouri and Minnesota, applicants must complete a live fire test where they have to shoot and hit a target, while Wisconsin, like Iowa, has no visual restrictions on gun permit applicants.

Scott Olson / Getty Images / AFP

In Texas, the legally blind are allowed to hunt, accompanied by a sighted partner, using laser sighting devices.

Last year, a blind New Jersey man won a legal battle to keep and shoot his guns. Steven Hopler had his firearms confiscated after shooting himself in the leg. The 49-year-old man insisted he could safely handle guns since and had done so since he was a child. He said he had experience of shooting as a sighted and non-sighted person, having lost his sight 20 years before as a result of diabetes. Police first seized his gun collection in 2008. However, several years later a judge ordered that the decision went against the blind man’s constitutional right to bear arms.