Story by Nathan Erickson
Gun safety laws have been a hot-button issue to many around the nation, and it’s safe to say that Iowa is no different.
An article published in the Des Moines Register recently highlighted the state’s practice of allowing legally or completely blind residents to receive permits to purchase and carry concealed firearms.
This has prompted major discussion across the state and also made national headlines.
Iowa passed its version of a “conceal and carry” law in 2011, allowing individuals permits to carry concealed firearms with proof of proper training and residency (with few exceptions).
The Register’s article detailed Iowa citizens’ reactions on both sides of the debate concerning the impact to public safety.
Proponents of disability rights, Iowa county sheriffs and blind community members all gave their opinions on the issue in the article.
Members, past and present, of the Drake community weighed in on the debate.
“I realize that everyone has the right to bear arms, but the fact that they may not know what they’re shooting at is honestly frightening,” said sophomore marketing and public relations double major Morgan Dezenski.
“A firearm is a big thing. You can put a person’s life in your hands, and that is a big responsibility,” Dezenski said.
Ted Berei, a Drake P4 student, had a different take on the debate.
“Personally, I do not see why a blind individual cannot be trusted to carry a firearm,” Berei said. “When we are currently letting sex offenders and other individuals familiar with the justice system carry guns, do we not also trust someone who may be ‘legally blind’?”
Advocates for rights of the disabled have maintained that gun ownership is a basic right under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Berei agreed with this assessment.
“This is an issue of judgment. I trust these individuals to make the right decision, just as we trust the rest of society who has been issued license or permit. Not affording them this right is unjust,” he said.
A 2013 Drake graduate, Dominic Johnson said that he “(doesn’t) think it makes much sense at all.”
“I have a feeling there may be a number of blind Iowans who think it doesn’t make sense. What are guns used for? Shooting things. How do you choose what thing you shoot? You see it. Guns kill people and I just don’t think it is smart to give a weapon to someone who can’t use it properly,” said Johnson.
When made aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he reasoned “In principal, that argument can be made.” Pressing further, he explained his view on the ADA argument.
“The whole thing just seems so ridiculous. I encourage them to participate in regular society in activities that make sense. Whether that is being a NASCAR driver or having a gun, some things don’t fall under that category.” He stated these sentiments again when asked about vision as a factor in approving permit requests.
Asked her opinion on vision as a factor for issuing permits, Dezenski had a somewhat more moderate view.
“I think blind people should be able to own weapons, but conceal and carry permits are not okay. Common sense has to take over at some point.”
Overall, members of the Drake community are split on what should be done about this issue. It is a safe bet that this will be a continuing conversation long into the future.