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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Iowa Sheriff: Blind People Can Use Guns Safely

Sheriff Warren Wethington shows his visually impaired daughter how to shoot a firearm. (Screenshot from the Des Moines Register video)

Sheriff Warren Wethington shows his visually impaired daughter how to shoot a firearm. (Screenshot from the Des Moines Register video)

Advocates for the disabled say denying the visually impaired the right to carry a weapon would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Iowa state law currently does not allow sheriffs to deny an Iowan the right to carry a weapon based on physical ability or disability.

People have this preset idea that blind people are going to be shooting at voices, and it’s just not going to happen.

– Sheriff Werthington

Private gun ownership by the blind is not new in Iowa, but gun permit changes passed in 2011 now allow the visually impaired to legally carry firearms in public.

Warren Wethington, the sheriff of Cedar County, Iowa, whose daughter is visually impaired, agrees that people with visual disabilities should be able to carry guns.

“People have this preset idea that blind people are going to be shooting at voices, and it’s just not going to happen,” Wethington told Here & Now.

While Wethington agrees there should be regulations on what visually impaired people can or cannot do for public safety reasons — for example, operating a car — he thinks visually impaired and blind people can be trained to use a firearm safely.

“I see no way a visually impaired person can operate a motor vehicle safely,” Wethington said. “But a firearm can be drawn and discharged, and truthfully it’s safer that way than a sighted person shooting five or 10 yards away. Because there is a possibility they could miss. If you have someone on top of you, and you rotate the weapon into them and make a contact shot, you’re not going to miss.”

Wethington says sighted people are often in situations in which their vision is impaired, for example at nighttime, yet they are allowed to carry a gun.

“There is any number of scenarios where a sighted person can find themselves in the exact same situation as a visually impaired [person], and nobody wants to talk about that,” he said.

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