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