In case you missed it, there is currently a controversy in the state of Iowa over whether blind and partially sighted people should be allowed guns.
We aren’t just talking about hunting guns here, but concealed loaded handguns carried in public.
It’s a startling idea to anyone living where I do, in the UK. Here private citizens are banned from carrying weapons of any kind. But the Second Amendment of the US Constitution reads
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
This was framed for an earlier era but still remains part of the US Constitution, so its interpretation is highly relevant to today. There are two basic philosophical strands of thought on how it should be applied.
One view is the collective rights version. In this interpretation, it means that the states that make up the US should be allowed to protect themselves as separate states and so the federal government should not prevent them from arming their militia, which was reasonable at the time. In the early part of the 20th-century this interpretation seemed to be gaining ground and it was accepted that individual gun ownership could be restricted, since the Amendment was about collective not individual rights.
The alternative view is individual rights. This holds that the Second Amendment provides a constitutional right for the individual citizen to carry weapons when they go out onto the street. This individual rights interpretation has been taken so far as to suggest that it’s not just something in the constitution of the US, but a fundamental human right.
More recently the individualist interpretation has been gaining force, although I think that legal opinion has generally only supported it on constitutional grounds, rather than as a basic human right. But the change means that gun restrictions are open to challenge.
Well, some in Iowa claim that disablement is not mentioned anywhere in the Second Amendment and they take the constitutional rights view. So since 2011 it’s possible for people who are legally blind and prevented by law from driving a car to walk about in public with a loaded handgun in their pockets.
As you would imagine some of the law enforcement agencies in Iowa would like to reverse this. But they are not unanimous.
As for organizations representing the partially sighted and blind, they are also undecided. They may well support the abolition of private weaponry and even a repeal of the Second Amendment possibly. But on the other hand if the sighted people on the street are armed, why should a blind or partially sighted person be put at a disadvantage they ask.
Other US states put more restriction on partially sighted persons carrying guns. For example they may be required to take a test at a shooting range, or in the case of hunting guns they may need to be with a sighted adult.
Personally I think it’s a terrible idea for anyone to carry a gun, and being partially sighted just makes it more dangerous. A leading libertarian, Michael Shermer, has very recently explained why he switched to opposing gun ownership because of the evidence of harm.
“Anopie” is just a word I made up from anopia (blindness) to describe myself and anyone anywhere with vision loss.