Iowa Grants Gun Permits To People Who Are Legally Blind

by Jerriann Sullivan
Image via Jordan McAlister/Getty Images

Iowa grants gun permits to people who are legally blind

With the debate about common sense gun control in the news following the massacre in Parkland, Florida one law is getting a lot of new attention. In Iowa, people who are legally blind can receive a permit that allows them to carry a gun in public. While the law was passed in 2011, the issue has been revisited since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Because if you can’t drive a car because of your visual impairment, it seems reasonable that you shouldn’t carry a gun.

“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware County Sheriff John LeClere told USA Today back in 2013. “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.” In 2011, Iowa made changes to its gun permits that allowed visually impaired people to carry firearms in public. So the debate isn’t should people who are visually impaired be allowed to own a gun, but should they be allowed to carry it in public. Despite the law, several folks in Iowa disagree with it including Dubuque County Sheriff Don Vrotsos, who told reporters that he wouldn’t be giving people who are legally blind permits to carry guns in public. Patrick Clancy has dedicated his life to teaching people who are visually impaired as the superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School and he doesn’t agree with the law either.

But the way the law is written doesn’t allow law enforcement to legally deny people who are visually impaired a permit based solely on physical ability. “It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads we can’t deny them (a permit) just based on that one thing,” explained Sgt. Jana Abens, of the Polk County Sheriff’s Department. The Gun Control Act of 1968 and other federal laws on guns don’t exclude blind people from owning guns. Most states require a vision test of some kind before people can obtain permits for firearms. Iowa and Wisconsin do not.

“Polk County officials say they’ve issued weapons permits to at least three people who can’t legally drive and were unable to read the application forms or had difficulty doing so because of visual impairments,” reported USA Today in 2103, when the law was passed.

The National Federation of the Blind hasn’t taken an official stance on the topic. But the issue has been brought up again and again as an example of how relaxed gun laws are in America. Especially since the only firearm training Iowa requires of people who want to carry their gun in public can be done online without any hands-on instruction or in-person testing. Previously, if you wanted a gun permit, you had to complete training on a firing range.

It is harder to drive a car in America than it is to carry a gun in public spaces. But the student victims of Parkland are ensuring that won’t be our reality for much longer.