Skip to comments.Blind man applies for concealed-gun permit
Posted on 10/15/2001 3:19:02 PM PDT by TLBSHOW
David W. Gordon cannot see the polished .38 -caliber revolver in his hand.
He cannot see the target he just fired into, shattering the wood behind it. Or the shell casings that drop to his feet.
But Gordon, blind since birth, says he wants the right to carry a firearm under Michigan's controversial new concealed weapons law.
The Portage resident is not an activist for gun rights, but he has been mugged twice once at gunpoint and still remembers when a blind man he knew was beaten on the Kalamazoo Mall in the late 1980s.
"If it was up to me, no one would have guns. But the fact is, people do have them," said Gordon, 52, who has been certified by a veteran gun instructor. "I've been in situations where I've experienced fear. This is as much about peace of mind. I have the right to protect myself if I'm in danger. But I hope to never use it. I really do."
Gordon's application for a concealed weapons permit in Kalamazoo County has touched off debate statewide over the rights of the blind to carry a gun.
It is the first time such an application has been made since Michigan enacted the law earlier this year. In isolated cases in two other states, Kentucky and North Dakota, blind people have obtained concealed weapons permits.
The local permit application raises more questions about Michigan's new law, which does not specifically exclude the disabled or include any shooting accuracy requirements for such individuals.
Permit issuance 'highly unlikely'
County gun board members, who are expected to consider Gordon's application on Oct. 24, said giving blind people such permits is like giving them a license to drive.
"On the surface of it, I think it's highly unlikely" Gordon will receive a permit, said gun board Chairman Phillip Reames, a firearms instructor. "I think it would be slim."
Reames said Gordon would probably fall under a section of the law denying permits to those considered a danger to themselves or others. But the law also states that such denials must be based on "clear and convincing evidence," such as police reports, statements or actions by the applicant.
The gun board plans to call Gordon before them to discuss the application.
Michigan gun rights advocates say Gordon who has spent nearly 15 hours training, which is almost double the amount required under the law deserves to be treated like anyone else.
"This is a man first, not a blind man," said Ross Dykman, executive director of the Lansing-based Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners. "Obviously, in a perfect world, no one would ever prey on the elderly or the blind or the disabled. But unfortunately, it happens and it happens a lot."
Others argue that public safety, not individual rights, should come first.
"He doesn't know who he's aiming at," said Joy Livingston, president of the Southwest Michigan Million Mom March/Brady Campaign. "If someone bumps into him accidentally, is he going to pull it out? This very much scares me."
Officials at the Michigan Commission for the Blind declined to comment on the case.
Gordon, a Kalamazoo native who retired after 27 years as a Pharmacia Corp. purchasing employee, said fear is part of daily life for the blind who are often easy targets for muggings and assaults.
And the new concealed weapons law could make the blind easier victims because criminals will believe they are not armed, he said.
"I have no problem giving up my wallet; that's not what this is about," Gordon said. "I have to feel my life is in danger."
Gordon set out several months ago to learn self-defense, but he said many of the options were not practical. Pepper spray would likely drop him to the ground if used on an attacker just a foot away, he said. A knife is not reasonable, and a stun gun is illegal, he said.
That's when he began considering obtaining a concealed weapon and contacted Michael Stamm, a retired Michigan State Police trooper and firearms instructor in Bloomingdale.
Stamm was skeptical initially.
"My first thought was, 'Great, that's just what we need, someone who can't see carrying a gun,"' Stamm said. "But then I thought, why be so closed-minded and judgmental?"
The two worked together for hours on a specific technique which they asked not be detailed. It involves Gordon creating a distraction while reaching with his free hand to feel the attacker, pulling the gun with the other and placing the muzzle against the person's body.
Pre-fragmented ammunition used is intended to disperse in the body, not leave it, Stamm said.
Gordon has practiced with a dummy gun on Stamm, approaching him from different angles. He also has fired into different targets by reaching out and placing the muzzle against them.
Rick Hume, Gordon's friend, said he was concerned about the idea. But after seeing it in person, Hume said, he is convinced Gordon could defend himself safely.
"My thing is you give guns to rational individuals, and Dave is one," he said. "There's a lot of people who are not ...out there."
Blind people in Kentucky and North Dakota this year have obtained concealed weapons permits.
The difference between those cases and Gordon's is that concealed weapons laws in Kentucky and North Dakota require applicants to hit a human size target at least 10 times from about 20 feet away. The blind applicants were able to do that after being pointed in the direction of the target.
Michigan's new law does not include such a requirement.
Instead, training is defined in vague terms, requiring "fundamentals of pistol shooting" and "pistol shooting positions." The eight-hour course certified by a state or national organization must involve three hours of firing range time, the law states.
The law also does not disqualify the blind or disabled, but it does deny those convicted of most misdemeanors in the past three years or felonies in the past eight years the right to carry a concealed weapon.
Former state Rep. Michael Green, a Republican who co-sponsored Michigan's law, said police organizations pressured lawmakers to include shooting tests in the training. But that idea was dismissed because "we wanted gun safety training instead," Green said.
Disabilities were not discussed as reasons to deny permits, but Gordon's case raises questions, he said.
"It's a pretty gray area," said Green. "It was out of our scope of comprehension that anyone (who was blind) would ever want one. I guess I'm a little surprised."
Rep. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, an outspoken opponent to the law, is not.
"This bill is flawed in many different ways. You're really just bringing up one area where it's flawed," said Jacobs, who has introduced legislation to ban concealed weapons in libraries.
The issue will likely be decided in court, said Lt. Tim Young, commander of the Paw Paw State Police Post and a Kalamazoo County gun board member.
Michigan allows a blind person to obtain a hunting license if another hunter with sight helps the individual aim the weapon.
Carolynne Jarvis, executive director of the Michigan Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence in Lansing, said it is shocking to think such safeguards are in place when the target is an animal, but not when it is a human.
"It could certainly set a precedent and open the doors," Jarvis said of Gordon's case. "There isn't much room for discretion in the new law."
But denying Gordon may force gun boards to start considering other more routine disabilities, gun rights leaders and Stamm said.
"Dave's not asking to fly a jetliner or drive up and down the freeway," Stamm said. "All he's asking is to protect himself, not in the context of his handicap, but in his training and behavior."
As for Jacobs, she's a nut who pointed a gun at the crowd...with her finger on the trigger. She pointed a rifle(Ak-47?) at the crowd and said that those would be what people carry. She sucks royal.
The "target" is not just a "human"; the target is a violent criminal who has assaulted him. He is not out to target anybody, only to be able to defend himself if attacked. What is ironic is that this legally blind man sees better than most gun-control advocates.
I have hoped to get a blind person into a CCW class in Arizona, but no luck so far.
I say that it is better to allow (even)one person to have a gun who perhaps shouldn't, than deny that God given right to a hundred. And thats what could happen here, a hundred other deserving people denied the right of self protection based on this case.
Give the man his gun.
Makes me a little nervous, but not too much. I'd have to see the training.