Tuesday, February 13, 2001

Weapons permits under fire

Lawmakers question letting blind carry concealed guns

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — The case of a legally blind woman caught carrying a gun onto federal property may open a debate among lawmakers about whether the blind should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

        Law-enforcement officials said they were shocked to learn that blind people have obtained Kentucky permits to carry concealed weapons.

        Federal prosecutor McKay Chauvin says allowing blind people to obtain the permits makes as much sense as giving the blind licenses to drive.

        Mr. Chauvin was assigned to the case of Carolyn Ann Key, who was caught carrying a .32-caliber derringer at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

        Ms. Key, 52, blind for 18 years from a retinal disease, was cited Nov. 9 and pleaded guilty Jan. 30 in U.S. District Court, where she was fined $100. She was forced to at least temporarily surrender her gun and permit.

        State Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said she might file legislation soon to address the situation.

        “This is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard of. How can a blind person see what they are shooting at?” Ms. Marzian asked.

        Ms. Key, who uses a guide dog, said she applied for a permit and carried a gun “for the same reason that most females do” — to protect herself in her home and when she has to walk alone at night.

        Ms. Key, who got her permit about 1 1/2 years ago, said she was comfortable with guns because she grew up hunting and shooting with her brothers.

        The test for a Kentucky permit requires applicants to hit a human-size target at least 11 times out of 20 from a distance of 21 feet.

        Ms. Key said that for her test, an instructor led her into a booth and told her the target was in front of her; she also said that she can see light and shadows and could make out the target's silhouette.

        “They didn't help me aim,” she said.

        Kentucky State Police say they have no idea how many blind people legally carry concealed weapons, but Sgt. John Carrico, who helps administer the permit program, said he wishes there were none.

        “If a blind person were shooting at someone,” he asked, “would you want to be in their way?”

        The author of the concealed-carry law, state Rep. Bob Damron, acknowledged he was “a little surprised that a blind individual would have a permit.”

        Bill Powers, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said the NRA support the rights of law-abiding people to carry concealed weapons if they meet the qualifications.


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- Weapons permits under fire