Iowa's Totally Cool With Blind People Carrying Guns in Public

And sadly, nope, that's not a headline from "The Onion" -- we only wish it were.

Sep 9, 2013 at 7:00pm | Leave a comment

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Guns are scary. Via Reuters.

If you're blind and live in Iowa, put on your party hat -- you're now legally allowed to carry a gun in public! Hurray?

This bizarre turn of events in the Midwestern state has stirred up a heated debate between advocates for people with disabilities and concerned law enforcement officers who wonder, aptly, "whether it's a good idea for visually disabled Iowans to have weapons." (Call me crazy, but I'll go with … NO.)

Federal laws don't actually prohibit blind people from gun ownership, though some states do have vision requirements (which seems entirely sensible to me, but what do I know? I'm not blind and I'm completely uninterested in owning a gun).

But apparently, there are people out there who believe blind people CAN be taught to shoot guns -- at least that's what Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington thinks, and he helpfully demonstrated as much for The Des Moines Register. Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, claims that blocking visually impaired people from the right to obtain weapon permits would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (which prohibits people with disabilities from being treated differently).

"It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can't deny [blind people] a permit just based on that one thing," said Sgt. Jana Abens, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Department. And officials in the same county say they've issued weapons permits to at least three people who couldn't legally drive and were "unable to read the application forms or had difficulty doing so because of visual impairments."

The range of sight among people who qualify as "legally blind" can vary, sure -- does this mean there could maybe-ostensibly-let's-see-hmmmm be situations in which blind applicants could safely handle guns? I'm doubtful, but maybe, technically, I guess (?). But does that vague technicality mean that it makes any semblance of sense to throw a bunch of gun permits at blind people, then sit back and let Iowans take their chances? Gun-rights proponents might yell "yee-haw" while pumping their fists in the air and wailing on their blow horns, but I suspect the rest of us would triple-lock our front doors and cower under our futons at the thought of contending with this outrageous potential free-for-all.

Of course I support equal rights for people with disabilities, generally speaking, but I just can't grasp the logistics of a situation in which a blind person -- whether legally blind, completely blind, or somewhere in between -- could feel confident, competent or morally OK about the decision to point and shoot a gun at another human, even in self-defense, if they CAN'T FULLY SEE THAT HUMAN.

American gun culture has gone off the rails if this sort of legislative tweak is expected to fly without an incredibly vocal fight. And thankfully, it's not -- all over the Internet today, there have been gape-mouthed masses trying to process the inanity. As Piers Morgan tweeted: "Blind people with guns. Think about that for a moment. This is the level of insanity America's gun culture has now reached," while comedian Bobbie Oliver noted, "Guns don't kill people. Blind people with guns kill people." I've noticed hardly anyone advocating FOR the legislation.

Too many of this country's best and brightest have been stolen from us too soon thanks to gun violence, from luminaries like Malcolm X and John Lennon, to innocent kids like Hadiya Pendleton and Sandy Hook Elementary's 20 first-graders whose sole offenses were being in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

I'm not going to throw a bunch of stats at you -- they're plentiful and easy to find. But it's clear: This country's gun laws -- and its gun attitudes -- are NOT WORKING. And I have little doubt that blind people -- no matter where they live -- exercising their dubious "right" to carry firearms will do anything but set us back even further.

What are your thoughts on this Iowa situation?

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