By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - It's something many say they never saw coming.
Visually impaired people owning and carrying guns in public.
Changes to Iowa law in 2011 are now making it possible for the legally blind to apply and get gun permits.
One blind man says he should have the right to protect himself and his family.
"Hey, we are just people like everybody else that want opportunities."
Blind musician, Stevie Wonder once said "Imagine me with a gun. It's just crazy." Well, if he lives in Iowa, law enforcement officials say he can now apply for a gun permit. The visually impaired are now legally allowed to carry a firearm in public.
Omaha resident, Mark Bulger, has been legally blind for nearly 20 years. He can't drive a car nor can he carry a gun. "Carrying a gun has not been a desire of mine because I don't hunt for recreation or food and also I feel safe in my home and in my community, where I don't feel that I need to protect myself at this point."
But, if he changed his mind and wanted to carry. The Gun Control Act of 1968 does not prohibit blind people from owning guns, however in the state of Nebraska, people who apply for a conceal and carry permit must provide proof of vision…owning a drivers license proves that.
"First thing about being blind, is you need to follow the laws just like everyone else," Bulger said.
But changes to Iowa laws now allow blind people to get gun permits. The final decision on whether they can carry is up to their sheriff. Some have been granting permits to those visually impaired but others have been denying them. "It could be a number of things, one may be the ones that are issuing a gun permit maybe have a tie with the person that is blind that they know that blind person is responsible, they're not going to act irrationally, a lot of it's education, it's the same reason one employer might hire a blind person and another one won't," he said.
And while Bulger believes everyone should have the right to protect himself or herself, he says those who want to own a gun should have to pass tougher tests, "I would like to see better qualifications for all types of gun holders, not just the blind."
The state of Iowa requires training for anyone who is issued a permit to carry a gun in public and part of Iowa's law allows sheriffs the right to deny a permit if they believe the person is likely to use the gun to endanger himself or others.
Some advocates for the disabled say keeping legally blind people from obtaining weapons permits would violate the Americans With Disabilities act.
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