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Sonn: No public firearms for the blind

BY BARRETT SONN | SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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Since 2011, Iowa has allowed the legally and completely blind to acquire permits to carry guns in public, which has received national attention this week.

Proponents say the blind can be properly trained to handle guns in a safe and responsible manner. Opponents counter by pointing out the biggest and most obvious issue: The blind can’t see well (or at all), and it’s generally a good idea to be able to see when firing a gun.

When I learned about it this legal leniency, I was skeptical. On the surface, it just doesn’t make sense. Why are blind people allowed to fire guns in the first place, let alone granted the right to carry them in public? The words “collateral damage” come to mind almost immediately.

But maybe, I thought, the state only gives permits to particularly well-trained blind folks.

It turns out that Iowa, as of this writing, does require training for an individual with a permit, but that can be completed online. Special testing for the legally blind has been discussed, but for the most part that seems to be on a county-by-county level, not the state level. The state has no way of screening out applicants who are physically unfit to own firearms.

The state should adopt stricter requirements to carry guns in public — it could mean the difference between life and death for not only the one holding the gun but the people in the general vicinity, too.

But even testing to be sure that blind can only do so much by itself. I can only imagine what might happen if a legally blind person with glasses gets attacked, loses her or his glasses, and, well, who knows what happens next?

Some may believe that requiring vision tests to carry weapons would be discriminatory, but I think this is a pretty straightforward case. If you can’t see anything, you can’t see anything. It’s not debatable. It may well be the case that many if not all of the blind people who are allowed to carry their guns in public are responsible gun owners, but it’s the combination of “the blind” and “public” and “guns” that makes me a little jittery.

If they want to hunt, that’s cool by me. The woods aren’t exactly a hot spot for the human population. But what if a blind person were to be attacked in downtown Iowa City? Might a gun in the hands of a person who can’t see make the situation far more dangerous?

Could a blind individual safely and effectively wield a gun in a self-defense scenario? I’m not sure.
There’s actually an interesting potential consequence of the state’s lenient gun-permit policy: people could be less willing to come to a blind person’s aid in some kind of altercation.

I’m not going to lie; if I see somebody getting hurt in some way, I will at least try help that person. But I’m not sure that I would put myself in a position to get accidentally shot by a blind person who thinks I’m the bad guy. It’s entirely possible that people might be afraid to help because they might get hurt.

At the end of the day, I’m all about human rights and equality. And I support the permits for the legally blind as long as the testing is at the right level. As for the completely blind, I don’t support that. There are just too many variables. Guns are already ridiculously dangerous and that danger level should be going down, not trending up.


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