A new debate over disability rights is emerging as Iowa grants permits for people who are blind to carry guns.
Changes to state law in 2011 allowed those with visual impairments to legally carry guns in public. And officials in one Iowa county say they’ve issued permits to at least three people who are legally unable to drive because of their limited sight.
“It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can’t deny them (a permit) just based on that one thing,” Sgt. Jana Abens of the Polk County sheriff’s office told the Des Moines Register.
The situation is leaving disability advocates and law enforcement officials split over whether or not it’s appropriate for those with limited to no vision to have access to firearms.
Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington has a daughter who is legally blind and favors training for those with visual impairments to carry weapons, a stance shared by some advocates who say that denying guns because of a disability would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Other law enforcement officials in the state are skeptical, however, and even some advocates say guns may present one area where equal access is unreasonable.
“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, told the newspaper.
Unlike Iowa, some states do consider vision abilities in issuing gun permits. Nebraska and South Carolina require applicants to provide proof of vision, for example. Meanwhile, in Missouri and Minnesota individuals with limited vision may be indirectly disqualified because of requirements to complete a live fire test and hit a target.