In Iowa, blind people can now own and even openly carry guns.
Most states require that citizens provide proof of vision when applying for a gun permit, usually by supplying a doctor’s note or a valid driver’s license. Thanks to a 2011 change in Iowa state law, however, county sheriffs are not allowed to deny citizens a weapons permit based on their physical disabilities, including vision impairment.
The result, as the Des Moines Register reported on Sunday, is that several legally blind Iowa citizens are legally able to acquire guns and even carry them in public.
Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, believes that stopping the blind from owning firearms would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. She says that because there’s a wide spectrum of vision impairment, each case must be judged on its own merit.
"The fact that you can't drive a car doesn't mean you can't go to a shooting range and see a target," Hudson told the Register.
Several counties in Iowa have already followed Hudson’s advice and given out weapons permits to the legally blind. Polk County officials confirmed that they issued at least three weapons permits to legally blind residents. Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware counties have also confirmed that they, too, have approved weapons permits for legally blind residents.
"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, told the Register.
Some sheriffs, though seemingly legally required to approve such requests, question the wisdom of allowing blind people to own and carry firearms.
“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware County 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.”