Iowa To Issue Gun Permits To The Blind

100px-Long_cane220px-Mamba_(pistol)There is a controversy in Iowa where the state has started a program to issue permits to carry guns in public to people who are legally blind. This includes people who are completely blind. Disability advocates insist that any denial of a permit for a gun to a blind person would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

State officials insist that state law does not allow them to deny an Iowan the right to carry a weapon based on physical ability. While Iowa’s law allows sheriffs to deny a permit if probable cause exists to believe that the person is likely to use the weapon in such a way that it would endanger himself or others, the provision is not viewed as applying to a danger related to a physical disability.

Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, insists that the denial of such permits would be discrimination and that blind people cannot be treated any differently than those who can see in the carrying of weapons. Some sheriffs like Dubuque County Sheriff Don Vrotsos, however, are refusing to issue the permits out of concern for public safety.

In Polk county, the sheriff has issued permits to carry guns in public to at least three people who cannot get licenses to drive cars due to their lack of sight.

Recently, Stevie Wonder, the famous blind musician, called out the practice and said “Imagine me with a gun. It’s just crazy.”

Some states require proof of vision for permits, which seems eminently reasonable. While I am a great supporter of the ADA, it seems that like driving, reasonable limits can be imposed on physical disabilities.

Yet, Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind, insists that “[t]here’s no reason solely on the (basis) of blindness that a blind person shouldn’t be allowed to carry a weapon . . . 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 sheriffs noted, however, that the provision relates to specific documented actions, and applicants who appealed their cases would likely win.

Vrotsos, the Dubuque County sheriff, did not know whether any blind people had applied for permits in his county, but said he wouldn’t hesitate to deny them.

“We do not track these applicants, but … if I knew the person was blind … a permit would not be issued, and this person would then have the right to appeal,” Vrotsos said.

But Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, believes changing the state law to deny blind people or others with physical disabilities the right to carry arms would violate federal disability law.

Part of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a public entity to conduct an individualized analysis to make a reasonable judgment before denying a service. Hudson believes someone could successfully challenge Nebraska’s proof of vision requirement as illegal.

“The fact that you can’t drive a car doesn’t mean you can’t go to a shooting range and see a target,” Hudson said.

Source: USA Today

38 thoughts on “Iowa To Issue Gun Permits To The Blind”

  1. LK,

    Wish I could help, but that’s a situation I’ve never come across, but I do know that the appeal process is state specific, i.e. the state that convicted the felon must be the one to restore their right. I have to assume that each state’s procedural rules are somewhat the same and that it likely includes some kind of judicial review. Other than that, I got nuthin’. 😉

  2. “Far too many “Common sense” gun laws generally only make sense to those with a lack of familiarity with firearms or any expertise in their actual use. They also generally demonstrate a lack of understanding as to the true nature and causes of the problems they wish to and history itself and hyperfocus on all of the wrong things.

  3. Darren, not to be redundant (but I will) as I pointed out on another thread, the right to own guns as well as the right to own guns are already subject to restriction in the case of ex-felons. As you and I agree ex-felons can petition to have those rights reinstated but the Governor of a stated does not have to agree to do so in some -or possibly any, situations. They can also add requirements to the petition process that may be burdensome. Also I believe we agreed that some mental illness (persons with mental illness are protected as a class as having a handicapping condition) disqualifies one from owning a gun. Accommodation of a handicapping condition is not an absolute requirement.

    I would be interested in one of our lawyers explaining (if they know) the procedure for the appeal of a negative finding in the case of an ex-felon. I assume a court challenge but….?

  4. “In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, several states took action in the hopes of preventing future gun violence. States like Delaware, New Jersey, and Connecticut each passed meaningful measures over the objections of far-right activists and the National Rifle Association.

    So too did Colorado, where memories of the massacre at an Aurora movie theater were still fresh when the violence in Newtown occurred. Though the state has traditionally been resistant to gun reforms, lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) approved new measures in March to expand background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines — policies that even conservative Supreme Court justices have said are constitutional.

    But the NRA and the right decided these efforts to reduce gun violence cannot stand, and they launched the first-ever recall elections in Colorado history. Yesterday, their gambit worked.

    Two Colorado legislators who supported stricter gun control laws lost their jobs on Tuesday in an unprecedented recall election that became the center of the national debate over regulating firearms.

    Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron were both defeated, the Denver Post reported, in the recall effort.

    They’ll both be replaced with Republicans allied with the NRA, but this will not affect partisan control of Colorado’s state Senate, where Democrats will maintain a narrow majority.

    Morse, a former police chief, was slated to leave office next year anyway, making his recall election more symbolic. Giron, first elected three years ago, has vowed to continue to find ways to serve her community.

    Morse said last night, “We made Colorado safer from gun violence. If it cost me my political career, that’s a small price to pay.” ” Steve Benen, Maddow blog

  5. Driving a motor vehicle on a public highway is not a constitutional right, nor is piloting an aircraft nor captaining a merchant marine vessel.

    There are those who believe that governments are not allowed to issue or suspend driver priviledges because they violate so called individual sovereignty or interfere with “freedom of movement.” This is entirely false. The right to drive a motor vehicle on a public highway is nowhere in the federal constittion, as are rights such as voting, citizenship, etc which are birthright or (as later interpreted by the SCOTUS or amended) upon achievment of a certain age. In other words a citizen is not born with or through attaining a certain age, automatically provided a driver license by virtue of the constitution.

    I will grant you there are some derived rights for activities that were not in society at the time of the drafting of the bill of rights and were interpreted by the SCOTUS to be part of those rights retained by the people. You could argue that the decision to revoke a driver license by the state must involve a due process procedure to be constitutional but it is not the same as say free speech which is an inherent right in that the gov’t cannot simply ban a person from worshipping a certain religion because the person made too many blasphemous statements but the state can and does revoke driver licenses due to habitual violations of the traffic laws.

  6. “Driving a motor vehicle is a liberty right protected by the state and federal constitutions.”

    Do tell.

    Cite any constitutional provision, state or Federal, that protects the so-called right to drive a motor vehicle.

    Also, don’t cite case law you don’t understand in proper context.

    “The right to operate a motor vehicle upon the public streets and highways is not a mere privilege. It is a right or liberty, the enjoyment of which is protected by the guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.”
    This is only true to the extent that as a citizen you have a right to be on property held in common such as a public roadway.

    “The right of a citizen to operate a motor vehicle upon the public streets and highways, is subject to reasonable regulation by the state in the exercise of its police power.” — Adams v. Pocatello, 416 P.2d 46 (1966), with many supporting cites.

    Which includes the reasonable regulations that deny driver’s licenses based on various criteria (lack of good vision, repeat DUI offenses, etc.).

    You have a Constitutional right to own a car if you can pay for one.

    You have no Constitutional right to be able to use it.

  7. Darren Smith wrote: “Some have brought up the driving issue. First, there is no constititutional right to drive a motor vehicle.”
    Many court decisions up to the highest state and federal disagree with this statement.
    Statements by DMV commissioners in driver manuals are not law.
    Driving a motor vehicle is a liberty right protected by the state and federal constitutions. This does not preclude “rules of the road” established to promote safety. It does not preclude testing of knowledge and skills that promote safe driving. It does not preclude a requirement for the driver to carry a certificate of his(her) competency. Many of our rights may, and are, regulated reasonably in their exercise. Most of our rights are not unlimited.
    One example:
    “The right to operate a motor vehicle upon the public streets and highways is not a mere privilege. It is a right or liberty, the enjoyment of which is protected by the guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.” “The right of a citizen to operate a motor vehicle upon the public streets and highways, is subject to reasonable regulation by the state in the exercise of its police power.” — Adams v. Pocatello, 416 P.2d 46 (1966), with many supporting cites.
    That the states choose, year after year, decade after decade, to trample on this right is why there are so many cases that affirm driving an automobile, by whatever name called, is a constitutionally protected right, not a mere privilege to be granted or withheld at the pleasure of a legislature or administrator..

  8. Before Lasik my right eye was 20/400+ and I assure you that while it was no good for driving a car with my left eye closed I could see the front sight of either a hand gun or a long gun quite well, thank you.
    If both of my eyes had been 20/400+ I would have been “legally blind” without corrective lenses.
    Large numbers of “blind” people have some sight. To blanket deny one a gun permit because of being classified as “legally blind” without proof that they really cannot see is unreasonable.

  9. Larry

    The second amendment to the US constitution and analogs in various state constitutions do not make a qualifier that a person be of a certain physical capability to enjoy that right. Moreover, there are degrees of blindness. Being legally blind for purposes of Social Security Disability means having vision that is not correctable to better than 20/200 vision or if their visual field is 20 degrees or less. I assure you that someone having 20/200 or 20% peripherial vision can still be able to hit a target 5 feet in front of them, but yet this meets the definition of legally blind and under this nebulous definition of being blind a person with that visual acuity would be categorically prohibited from the CPL permit under those standards.

    If there is the concern that a wild round might go past and hit someone else, that could occur with any person shooting a gun if they do not have a proper aim. But if there is a concern about this a person can load a .38 caliber revolver with rat shot (which is a cartridge that contains small shotgun like loads encased in plastic) and that’s only good for aboutj 10 feet but it can be used as a defensive round. After 15 feet or so it loses most of its energy and is not generally harmful.

    It is not about selling more guns. A sheriff’s office issuing a permit does not issue CPLs to people so that they may by more firearms from the department. But we have to also be pragmatic about it. The numbers of these blind citizens going to get CPL permits is going to be exceptionally small and statistically I don’t see how this is going to represent a measurable threat to society by rounds hitting 3rd persons.

    I know the point that you are making about not allowing a person below a certain acuity level drive a car. But the mere possession of a firearm does not cause harm to others based upon its ownership. There was a section 1983 case a few years ago in the southwest where a man carrying a pistol in a holster in an open carry state went to a movie theater to watch a film. He was called in by some bystander and the police there removed him from theater and detained him. The courts ruled and this was upheld on appeal that it could proceed to trial, that there was cause the PD violated this man’s civil rights because the possession of the pistol was lawful and in the words of the judge the man was detained illegally for possessing an object that in the eyes of the law was equal to that of a wallet.

    It is the same with this. The blind person keeping arms is just as constitutionally in her right to do so as one with 20/20 vision.

    I accept that you have safety in mind but arbitrary restrictions on a person’s constitutional rights based upon politicians’ color of safety or other seemingly just cause is worse in my view when we start globally restricting the bill of rights on account of a few relatively rare conditions is a worse result.

    Interestingly if the blind person came into the sheriff’s office and wanted a CPL and requested an accomodation or assistance in completing the paperwork the S.O. is required by law to provide it. Why, because as you know they are required to by federal and state law. It is the same with states that are Shall Issue states with regard to concealed pistol licenses. In those states (WA is one) if the sheriff has an applicant that is not legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, the sheriff cannot deny the issuance. It is due to the law binding the sheriff’s decision. I believe the same condition exists for the blind person receiveing a CPL. Even if the sheriff had the same strong view that you have about safety, the sheriff cannot legally deny the permit. I know you have concerns and I can see from your point of view that your position is valid and reasonable, the law is sometimes just the way it is.

  10. Darrel C. Carlson(Son of S/Sgt Carl Edwin Carlson, K.I.A. 22June1944)

    There’s no such thing as “NRA prejudice” in this country. We all are familiar with what the NRA stands for. It’s pushed in our faces, every day, every time criminals from NRA-controlled states bring weapons into states with common sense gun laws.
    The NRA exists to sell guns. To anyone.

  11. Like all rights, the rights protected by the 2nd amendment is subject to time, place and manner restrictions. I am having trouble imaging a completely blind person being able to safely care for, carry and use a gun in self defense. Likewise, I cannot see how someone with limited vision should be denied this right. If someone has sufficient vision to differentiate between threatening and non threatening behavior, engage targets at typical self defense distances and have sufficient vision to properly maintain, store and holster the firearm they should be able to receive a permit once all the other qualifications are met.

  12. Justice Holmes – How silly your NRA prejudice looks dressed in your little black dress.

  13. Just as California’s ban on modern sporting semiautomatic rifles (which they classify as assault weapon’s) discriminate against people such as myself with impaired nerve function that affects the fine motor function in our hands and those people with arthritis and other conditions based on the ADA.
    While we can aim and shoot well, in my case – extremely well, many of us have great difficulty working the bolt in a bolt action rifle, particularly with any speed. We have difficulty with the repetitive loading of ammunition in bolt action rifles and reduced capacity magazines. The convenience of standard capacity magazines is a God send during a long day at the range.
    I shoot the NRA light rifle program competitively using a Ruger .10-22 .22 cal rifle which the legislature is poised to restrict & classify the same as so called Assault Weapons. It is quite common for me to shoot 200,300,400 or more rounds of .22 cal ammunition (which has grown very expensive) during a day on the range. Soon this will become virtually impossible, eliminating shooting sports in CA.
    What people think of as “assault rifles” are simply a collection of ergonomic and functional features that represent the logical development of the rifle – making them safer, easier and more accurate to shoot for all – including those of us with disabilities. It is senseless for people to insist that Americans shoot with 100 year old and older designs when it comes to deadly weapons.

  14. Sure, you have your target make some sort of noise, then see how close you come to hitting it. If I were living somewhere where I didn’t feel safe, I’d want that deterrent. Not that I plan to put myself in that situation, but when we eventually degenerate into a fortified country where the upper 10% live in castles and the rest of us fight over the scraps, I might need it. 🙁

  15. Darren,
    I respectfully have to disagree with you. Refusing a gun permit to a blind person would not be a violation of the second amendment or a violation of any anti-discrimination laws. Reasonable restrictions are allowed on rights, just like we have restrictions on the First Amendment.
    As Prof. Turley suggests, if a blind person can be prevented from getting a drivers license, a blind person can be prevented from obtaining a gun. The drivers license is not meant as an example of a right, but the ability of the government to reasonably restrict someone who can’t safely handle a gun in public. I would consider that a good faith and reasonable restriction on the right to bear arms. The public would be in further risk with a blind person possessing a gun. If what you are saying is correct, then they cannot be prevented from carrying a concealed gun either.
    This idea of blind people being allowed to possess guns is just an attempt to sell more guns to people that cannot use them properly or safely.

  16. its a fair law until one of their family members or a close family friend gets shot. and then all heck will break loose and they will have no one to blame but themselves. and its going to happen. a child mistaken for a adult is going to get killed or permanently paralyzed and then there will be the race to rescind the law. when will THE PEOPLE WAKE UP and realize what is going on and what slaughter they are being led to…

  17. Earsoftheworld: Exactly how are you going to demonstrate ‘proficiency’? Shoot at a target that you can’t see? I have diabetes and while I’m not blind, my eyesight has decreased to the point that I no longer feel that I have the ability to drive safely. In other words, I know that there are now some things that I can no longer do safely. Might not be fair, but, hey, in life, what is? When Mr. Jefferson wrote ‘…that all men are created equal’ he was talking about political equality not physical equality. It really is time that people realize that there are just some things that some people can NOT do. This is most certainly one of those things.

Comments are closed.