Iowa issues concealed guns permits to people with vision impairments

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Michael Barber is not qualified to obtain an Iowa driver’s license due to his visual disabilities. However, under a little known change to the state’s gun permit laws in 2011, he can now obtain a permit to carry a gun in public.

The Des Moines Register ran an extensive feature on this new practice September 9, triggering a range of reactions, both among gun and disability activists.

Disability Rights Iowa told the Register that allowing the state to deny legally blind residents their Second Amendment rights would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The National Federation of the Blind has not taken an official position on the issue, but said that many of its members have a similar perspective.

“There’s no reason solely on the (basis) of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon,” said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the NFB, 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.”

Many Iowa sheriffs, however, see the issue as an accident waiting to happen.

“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.”

Iowa residents with gun permits must obtain additional training to receive a concealed gun permit. However, that training consists of an online course and does not require any hands-on instruction or a shooting test.

No federal law expressly requires states to require vision tests in order to obtain a gun permit. In fact, the Register found that only a few states even address the issue and there is no federal data tracking this information state by state.