As Iowa law enforcement officials debate the safety of continuing to grant gun permits to citizens who are visually impaired or blind, advocates for the disabled make a strong case over what is a fundamental issue of personal choice and freedom.
Although private gun ownership among the blind is relatively common, the question of whether citizens with visual impairments should be allowed to carry guns publicly stirs up a separate public safety concern: the startling sight of a blind man with a cane in one hand and a 9mm peeking out of his back pocket. However, is the seeing community just to infringe upon this man’s right to responsibly carry a firearm like the the other members of his community?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), forbidding the visually impaired from carrying guns could be considered discriminatory because the law forbids disabled Americans from being subject to different treatment under the law. Furthermore, gun rights — unlike driving, which is considered a privilege — are guaranteed under the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which makes imposing limit on owning them difficult.
Legalities aside, many Americans with disabilities are in a plight to prove they can participate fully in life's activities. Those with visual impairments can successfully complete gun safety courses, target practice, and care for their gun collections. It is other people who are uncomfortable with the the blind owning and maintaining their own guns. Blind people, after all, can cook competitively, go hunting, skiing, kayaking, and successfully participate in any number of other activities. Why can’t they be capable, responsible gun owners too?
Chris Danielson, director of public relations for The National Federation of the Blind said, "There's no reason solely on the (basis) of blindness that a blind person shouldn't be allowed to carry a weapon … 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."
Sheriff Warren Werthington of Cedar County, Iowa whose own daughter is blind and has learned to operate firearms, supports these permits and maintains, "If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals' hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be more productive."
When other counties and states around the nation face this debate in their communities, they might be best advised to heed Werthington's advice and err on the side of protecting individuals' liberties rather than limiting them due to prejudice of what they believe people with disabilities are capable of.