Iowa has permitted blind people to buy guns in the state since 2011 but the issue is now stirring debate between gun advocates and local officials who say the law is "strange."
A change in gun permits two years ago made it so the state cannot deny someone the right to carry a weapon because of a physical disability. Pro-gun advocates argue that forbidding a blind person from purchasing or carrying a gun would constitute a breach of the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the Des Moines Register.
"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, a spokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff’s office, told the Register.
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Most states require proof of vision as a weapon permit criterion but not Iowa.
"There's no reason solely on the [basis] of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon," Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, told the Register. "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."
It's not clear exactly how many blind Iowans have permits for guns, but some visually impaired people argue that they should be allowed the same rights as everyone else.
"When you shoot a gun, you take it out and point and shoot, and I don't necessarily think eyesight is necessary," said Michael Barber, an Iowa resident who is blind. "I can hear where people are. So I just simply point and shoot."
But local officials and at least one celebrity are speaking out against the law.
"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."
Even musician Stevie Wonder, who was blinded shortly after birth, has criticized what he calls "ridiculous" gun laws.
"I was thinking, you know, because I saw you on the TV talking about the whole gun [control] thing, and I was talking to one of my friends and I said, 'You know what? You should go get me a gun or me go with you to get a gun and then show how easy it is for me to get a gun,'" he told CNN's Piers Morgan in an interview earlier this year. "Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy."
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