In Iowa, the Blind Can Buy a Gun, Take Aim, and Fire

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AP / Keith Srakocic, File

Customers line up at a sport shop gun counter

Ever since gun permit rules were changed in 2011, Iowa has allowed blind people to buy and carry guns in public. But the policy is now being revisited in a growing political debate.

No specific law prohibits the legally blind from owning a firearm.

“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 Polk County sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sgt. Jana Abens told the Des Moines Register. That works in the favor of Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington, who demonstrated how a blind person can be taught to shoot.

“If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals’ hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be more productive,” said Wethington, who plans on obtaining a gun permit for his blind daughter when she turns 21, the legal age for a nonprofessional gun permit in the state.

Delaware County Sheriff John LeClere is against the practice: “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,” he said.

Gun permit changes that took effect in 2011 and allowed for the visually impaired to carry firearms brought the issue to the forefront.  The range of sight for those considered legally blind does vary from case to case, according to Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.