So I get a lot of my disability news from http://samedifference1.com/, which I highly recommend following. One of the posts today was this one:
A few years ago, I lost a close family member to a gun that was used for no reason.
I came away from that very painful experience with a very strong hatred of guns. I feel very strongly against gun licenses. I feel very strongly that America’s gun laws should be changed. I feel very strongly that no one, in America or anywhere, should be legally allowed to own a gun.
Until now, I’ve never had any reason to write this here.
Today, however, I have learnt that some US states allow blind people to hold gun licenses and legally own guns. Readers, I feel very strongly that if there should be any minimum requirement for owning a gun, it should be full eyesight.
Some disability rights campaigners may disagree with my view. Some disability rights campaigners may say that blind people have a right to do, to own, anything they wish.
Readers, in most cases, I would fully agree that blind people, that all disabled people, have every right to do, and to own, anything they wish.
However, there is something else that I have always felt very strongly about. That is, that in doing anything they wish to do, all disabled people should know their own limits. I have always felt very strongly that disabled people should never try to use equal rights or disability rights as an excuse to do something that puts themselves, or anyone else, in serious danger.
My personal opinion is that America’s second amendment law needs to change for everyone. However, if that can’t happen, then at the very least, the states that allow blind people to own and carry guns really need to change that law.
I strongly disagree with Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now, who feels it should not be society’s job to say that blind or disabled people should be excluded from doing something because it is too dangerous.
I argree, as I usually do, with the vast majority of SD’s opinion. But I’d like to put forward another side to the debate, simply because it’s a nice oppertunity to have a rational discussion about stuff that people rarely get to be rational about.
My (current, I am open to persuasion) position is as follows – I find the US gun situation horrifying, but the more I find out about it the less of a solution I can see (for those interested, I find freakanomics to have interesting things to say on the subject, and Nate Silver is practically a personal hero on this). In the UK, I think that fewer guns are a better thing and I recognise that gun crime is a significant problem that needs to be solved, but if you gave me two (highly specific) wishes, then I’d solve UK heroin use and UK alachol abuse before I solved UK gun crime.
But to make an actual point. If my neightbour buys a gun, then there are three things I would worry about.
- them shooting me on purpose
- them shooting me or themselves by accident.
- the gun being stolen and the burgler shooting me on the way out.
I think that, without being overly silly, we can assume that a blind person with a gun not more likely to shoot me on purpose than a sighted person, and so we can dissmiss point 1.
Regarding point 2. I don’t believe that a blind person is more likely to shoot me accidently than a sighted person. If I gun goes off, accidently and unaimed, then sight is not a factor. (they might have pointed it at my by accident, but I suspect that’s as likely as a particularly stupid person waving it in my direction as ‘a joke’). The real question here is ‘Is a blind person more likely to discharge a gun accidently?’ But my first aligence is to science here and so we can check – we can ask questions like ‘Of the number of people who accidently harmed someone with a gun in the US in the last five years, how many were registered blind?’ and if we know that and the proportion of blind gun owners, then we have an ability to make the call.
Regarding 3. Yes, this is real factor. I don’t doubt it. But I don’t think it’s any more likely to happen to a blind person than an elderly person. Again – this is something that actual statistics should be able to help with. Let’s be scentific about this – do people with sight problems get burgled more or less? My gut says less (Possibly out of the house less, perhaps more likely to have an alert dog, often keeps burgler-unfriendly hours), but I’d love to see some data.
So i’d like to withhold judgement until I get some actual data, but looking at the three possibilities, if I have a blind neightbour and a fully sighted neightbour, and one of them is going to get a gun, then I’m probably hoping its the blind one. I think one gun is one too many, but I think that if we’re going to reason about the pragmatics, we should do so with data.
For your interest here’s the (ironically not screenreaderable) orginal story in private eye.