DES MOINES, IOWA — In Iowa law, there is no stipulation for the denial of a concealed carry permit based upon physical limitation. This includes those whom are visually impaired. Thus, in the state of Iowa, it’s entirely possible for someone who is legally blind to maintain a concealed carry permit for a pistol.
This has recently come up as one County Sheriff, Sheriff Don Vrotsos, has stated he will not issue a concealed carry permit to someone who is visually impaired. County Sheriffs, in Iowa, are the “shall issue” authority for concealed carry permits.
And, in many cases, the Superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School agrees. When interviewed by the Des Moine Register, Patrick Clancy said guns may be the rare exception to his promotion of the participation of blind people in all aspects of life.
The executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, Jane Hudson, however, says impeding visually impaired people from the right to have weapon permits would run loggerhead with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I’m not an expert in vision,” Delaware Sheriff John LeClere said. “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.”
The visually impaired receiving access to Iowa’s equivalent of a concealed carry permit is something that developed out of changes to Iowa laws in 2011. It’s not so much that any Iowa legislature specifically pushed allowing the blind to conceal carry as what they omitted in the bill’s language.
At present, there is no visual accuity stipulation anywhere in the law – leaving county sheriffs and issuing authorities to either “shall issue” or define where the person doesn’t meet the requirements. Hudson noted that according to federal law, it is prohibited to treat people differently based upon disabilities.
It is unknown whether any representatives in the State of Iowa are seeking to redress the current conditions of the carriage of a pistol. In the meantime, county officials are reporting that they have – and may continue – to issue carry permits to people that have severe visual impairment.
Polk County officials say they’ve issued weapons permits to at least three people who can’t legally drive and were unable to read the application forms or had difficulty doing so because of visual impairments.
And sheriffs in three other counties — Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware — say they have granted permits to residents who they believe have severe visual impairments.
One Iowa Sheriff Volunteers To Teach The Blind
Warren Wethington, the Sheriff of Cedar County, demonstrated for the Des Moines Register how he would go about training blind people who want to daily carry a firearm. This Sheriff has a legally blind daughter and when she turns 21, he has every intention of helping her obtain a permit to carry with special training.
“If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals’ hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be more productive,” Wethington said in an interview while he was helping his daughter learn how to shoot on private property in rural Cedar County.
While states such as Nebraska and others require a driver’s license or other such proof of visual capacity, Iowa has no language limiting its residents. Is this an opportunity for communities to come together to enable their visually impaired residents or is it just the next political hurdle for some future Iowa legislature? At present, the issuance of carry permits to the visually impaired has not seemed to impact Iowans heavily.
Do you believe the visually impaired should be allowed to carry concealed or otherwise? Do you think special training may make it possible? Tell us in the comments.