Iowa law enforcement officials are debating the wisdom of granting gun permits to blind people.
The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa law doesn't allow sheriffsto deny a permit to carry a gun in public based on physical ability.
Some sheriffs have been granting gun permits to people with visualimpairments while others have been denying them. Blind people and otherIowans can obtain the permits for carrying a weapon in public because ofchanges to state law that took effect in 2011.
Jane Hudson with Disability Rights Iowa said keeping legally blind people from obtaining weapon permits would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Some other states, including Nebraska, require anyone applying for agun permit to provide proof of their visual ability by supplying adriver's license or doctor's statement.
Hudson said she thinks someone could successfully challengeNebraska's vision restriction because federal law requires states toanalyze a situation individually before denying a service.
"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.
Polk County officials said they have issued weapons permits to peoplewho can't drive legally because of vision problems at least threetimes. Sheriffs in Jasper, Kossuth and Delaware counties say they'vealso granted permits to Iowans with severe visual impairments.
"It seems a little strange, but the way the law reads, we can't denythem (a permit) just based on that one thing," said Sgt. Jana Abens, aspokeswoman for the Polk County sheriff's office, referring to a visualdisability.
It'snot clear how many people with visual impairments have permits to carryweapons in Iowa because no one collects that information.
Delaware County Sheriff John LeClere questioned whether visually-impaired people should be able to obtain these weapons permits.
"At what point do vision problems have a detrimental effect to fire afirearm? If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you, then Iwould say you probably shouldn't be shooting something," LeClere said.
Even Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, said guns may be a rare exception to his philosophy.
"Although people who are blind can participate fully in nearly alllife's experiences, there are some things, like the operation of aweapon, that may very well be an exception," Clancy said.
But in Cedar County, blind people would find a welcoming audience ifthey applied for a weapons permit. Sheriff Warren Wethington has alegally blind daughter who is 19, and she plans to apply for a permitwhen she's eligible at 21.
"If sheriffs spent more time trying to keep guns out of criminals'hands and not people with disabilities, their time would be moreproductive," Wethington said.