Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guns for the blind

Apparently Jimmy Kimmel took some blind people to the range, had them shoot at targets—badly, and made fun of them. Watching the resulting outrage is like hearing that people are upset that Howard Stern made fun of his guests. At some point one has to ask what they thought would happen? Was it in poor taste to tell someone that they shot their guide dog? Sure. Was the entire production cheap humor? Well yes. So what? How many people laughed when Al Pacino drove a car in Scent of a woman? (Raises hand) As a blind man who owns firearms and goes to the range regularly I’m happy to see Kimmel panning the whole blind-with-guns bit. It’s funny. It’s not a public safety risk. I’m kind of offended that this was the best he could manage, but then you have to consider the source. What bothers me is reading the follow-up commentary. “Blind people shouldn’t have guns.” “That’s dangerous!” “What do blind people need guns for anyway?” “Blind people will end up shooting bystanders if they’re allowed to carry a concealed weapon.” “How can a blind person distinguish their target—assuming they can be trusted to carry a loaded firearm in the first place?” Let’s deal with the ownership question first. I can own a car, a boat, a motorcycle, even a helicopter. The assumption is that possession of the item doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to use it. What’s the difference here? None. Lots of items are dangerous. The idea that a blind person is inherently more likely to do something irresponsible is illogical. What, do they think I don’t know I can’t see? Do people think I’m not aware that bullets have the potential to kill—you know like cars, boats, helicopters…etc? If I want to collect classic cars, sailboats, tilt-wing aircraft, or firearms that is my right as a responsible adult. It’s also my responsibility to follow applicable law and common sense when employing those acquisitions. Blind people don’t have to “need” a gun—it’s enough for them to want one. What I use it for or don’t use it for is my business as long as it’s legal—the same as everyone else. The question of usage is worth discussing for the sake of public awareness. Visually impaired people shoot guns every day. Companies like Crimson trace, Lasermax, and Insight manufacture lasers for handguns, rifles and shotguns which can be used to help spotters get a blind person on target. Several companies make devices that allow a spotter to designate a target remotely for a blind person. Many of my friends have become adept at the use of the MKI eyeball while lining up my range shots. Using proper safety precautions, blind people can enjoy firearms with 0 risks to themselves or anyone else. Recreational shooting requires a bit of effort; but the experience is entirely accessible. As to the idea that a blind person can’t carry a firearm for self-defense, all I can say is that ship sailed a long time ago. Several states, notably Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, and Arizona don’t require any kind of skill-based assessment in order to carry a concealed weapon. Many others have unrestricted open carry. Blind people in those states have been able to carry firearms for years if not decades. The blatant absence of blind-gunslingers-gone wild™ proves that blind people can be trusted with firearms. Much as in the case of recreational shooting, steps can be taken to minimize risks in a self-defense situation. Frangible ammunition, shot shells, and low density birdshot reduce the likelihood of over penetration. Waiting until a threat is at contact distances ensures that the correct target is engaged. Proper training in firearm safety, emergency response, threat minimization, and self-defense ensures that the right choice is made in a crisis. What I see here is fear, fear that blind people will make a worse decision than a sighted person in a moment of crisis. To which the only response is trust. Every day, millions of Americans get on the road trusting that everyone else, regardless of physical limitation, will drive responsibly. This is no different. Provided a blind person meets the legal requirements for firearm ownership, we have to trust that they will act responsibly with full awareness of their limitations.

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