Iowa Gives Gun Permits to the Legally Blind

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Iowa sheriff teaches his blind daughter to use a gun (AP photo)

Residents of Iowa don’t need 20/20 vision to legally own firearms or carry them in public. In fact, they don’t have to possess the ability to see at all.


For at least two years now, Iowans who are legally or completely blind have been entitled to receive permits for gun purchases. They also can obtain permits to carry firearms into public places.


The Des Moines Register reported that visually impaired citizens have been able to own guns for quite some time. The more recent development occurred in 2011, when the state changed the rules regarding gun permits for public carry.


Under Iowa law, sheriffs cannot deny someone a carry permit because of physical ability, including blindness.


“It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can’t deny them (a permit) just based on that one thing,” Sergeant Jana Abens, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, told the newspaper.


Polk County, in fact, has issued weapons permits to at least three people who couldn’t legally drive and couldn’t read the application forms because of visual impairments, according to officials’ recollection.


At least three other counties (Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware) have also granted permits to residents who had severe visual impairments.


Delaware Sheriff John LeClere told the Register that this reality might not make sense.


“I’m not an expert in vision,” he said. “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.”


Other sheriffs, like Cedar County’s Warren Wethington, disagree, saying blind people can be taught to shoot guns.


Musician Stevie Wonder, blind since birth, begs to differ. “Imagine me with a gun,” he told CNN. “It’s crazy.” Since January, Wonder has been calling for reforms to what he has described as “ridiculous” gun laws.


No one can say for sure how many visually impaired Iowans have gun permits because neither the state nor the county sheriffs keep track of such data.


At least one other state, Wisconsin, has no restrictions regarding sight when it comes to issuing gun permits.


Supporters of allowing the blind to have gun permits cite the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law that prohibits people from being treated differently based on their disabilities.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Iowa Grants Gun Permits to the Blind (by Jason Clayworth, The Des Moines Register)

Should the Legally Blind be Allowed to Carry Guns in Public? (by Julia Dahl, CBS News)


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