I am not a licensed instructor and I have no intention on making concrete recommendations to any prospective blind shooters. These questions and their answers below are merely for the purposes of answering the types of questions I have been asked throughout the years. In addition, I have posted some relevant videos and photos from my own life to better enhance some answers by sharing some of my personal experiences, including some audio notes of my first official class in pistol marksmanship from the Army ROTC, fall 1991. But beware, although I have privately mentored other blind people around the nation, whose stories and mannerisms I felt matched well with firearms, whether that be for target shooting, hunting, or even obtaining their own concealed weapons permits, I maintain that anyone trying this should keep such aspirations to themselves for their own safety, given the current political climate towards the blind.
Index of page
1. Why would a blind person need a firearm for protection?
Let’s be honest here. Cane Says “Easy Target” to those choosing victims and generally, someone without sight spends most of their lives as a pedestrian; more vulnerable to attack than say someone who spends most of their commute behind the wheel of a vehicle. Also, a blind person can neither avoid a dangerous situation, nor run from one should an attack occur, do to obstacles that might be in their escape rout. This means that they will have to stand and fight with whatever means they have at their disposal. No other method of defense is as effective against criminals as a firearm and carrying a gun for self-defense is no more paranoid than putting on a seatbelt when exiting the driveway. More than likely it isn’t necessary, but when it is, it might just save your life.
2. How can a blind permit holder distinguish their assailant from others?
To make a legal shot in self-defense, sighted or blind, one must first establish an attacker’s intent to do bodily harm, and secondly, positively identify the target before firing. That said, a blind person must use their weapon exclusively at pointblank range. This would mean anchoring the gun’s muzzle figuratively speaking to the assailant’s body and emptying the chamber, or otherwise being in physical contact with the attacker, which also establishes intent in any subsequent court action. Think of the blind person’s gun as a blade with a bang.
3. How can you check what is behind the attacker when you can’t see?
First let me say that in the real world, no attacker is going to step aside a moment for you to check the shot before it’s made, and every shot made can only be checked to a certain degree due to the fact that changes in elevation like hills, walls, trees and so forth are not transparent. This means that you can consider every shooter to be somewhat blind, since a shot made outside a controlled environment like a firing range has a naturally restricted Line of Sight. Most handguns of higher calibers and all rifles have an affective killing range of about a mile; standard rounds carrying enough energy to penetrate at least one to three obstructions on average. And since every substance a bullet passes through has a variance in density and angle of entry that can’t be calculated to 100% accuracy when taking that shot, it is impossible even for the best sighted marksman to pinpoint just where his or her bullet might ultimately land. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to use lower calibers and special ammunition that mostly breaks up inside the attacker’s body to minimize the inherent danger of discharging a firearm in self-defense.
However, this is a life or death struggle we are talking about here, not the clean-cut scenarios they teach in gun safety classes. Unless you are firing at your attacker at so many paces like gun fighters in the Old West, you will be off balance and spun around to a point that taking aim might result in a wild shot. Remember, assailants don’t follow the manual and therefore, pointblank might be a sighted shooter’s best option as well, but like I have already said, for a blind shooter, it always must be at pointblank range to make a shot in self-defense legal no matter what. The law may say you have the right to shoot at a voice that is using threatening words beyond your touch, but how do you prove that in a court of law?
4. What assurance is there that a shot you make will be exclusively at pointblank range?
Simply put, because a shot fired on naked ear drums is very painful and can deafen me to a certain degree. This I found out the hard way while using a 44-magnum bang stick on my gator during a night hunt on shore, hurrying to avoid an attack from a second gator.
The shock of that blast nearly had me stumbling back into the second gator’s jaws; all sound temporarily muffled. My ears rang for days afterwards. Therefore, the fear of receiving a second handicap on a hunch provides for a natural pause, as I never would consider handicapping myself further without the threat of serious bodily harm or death.
5. If the National Rifle Association has abandoned gun rights for the blind, why shouldn’t I?
Abandoning the blind and their rights as Americans is morally and legally reprehensible on so many different levels for an organization that is supposed to protect freedoms in this nation. Should a soldier blinded in battle have the same constitution they gave their vision to defend automatically restricted based upon no more than a mass paranoia that has no real statistical foundation? The fact is that sighted people seem to be doing all the shooting; blind people seem to be doing nothing, so lets get guns out of the hands of the blind and watch the numbers of gun deaths in this nation go absolutely nowhere. Even if you aren’t 100% behind gun rights for the blind, you shouldn’t be against it, since there begins the infamous slippery slope, as what group of citizens are next to have their rights let go to appease those on the other side? The key to understanding is to first stop confusing the instantaneous Hell that is defensive shooting with the niceties of target shooting at the range, and or hunting wild game. Remember, if the blind supposedly can’t hit the broadside of a barn, then you can’t possibly have a problem with them carrying guns in public, since you can’t have it both ways.
Guide dogs are not guard dogs. A guide dog must be trained to be docile, because you can’t have an aggressive animal in public settings where it might be in close contact with others, and any guide that shows tendencies towards being aggressive is always immediately dropped from the program. Besides, not everyone uses the services of a guide dog to get around. That is a Stereotype. But to those that do, the very presence of a dog might just invite an attack from a more likely assailant, “another loose dog”.
Police officers are not body guards. Their real job is to collect evidence and retaliate on a victim’s behalf in an orderly fashion, which does allot of good afterwards for the victim and or their loved ones. A gun is for the before and during parts of an attack, bridging the gap between the call and the arrival of law enforcement where you are basically on your own. A gun only provides a victim the choice to not become a victim in the first place. Leaving your personal security exclusively to law enforcement by remaining helpless in the face of danger becomes a practical solution only to those, who have no other recourse in a debate than to just declare that the blind should remain defenseless in the face of danger, so to better serve their paranoia about a blind person’s ability to declare “no” to any assailant by ownership, or carrying of a legally-obtained firearm. Frequently, just the mere presence of a gun saves lives, taking away the assailant’s power, usually with not a shot having been fired. And so, although law enforcement will try their best to help in a crisis, we must be realistic enough to be ready to sometimes help ourselves when the need is greatest.
8. Why don’t you try carrying a knife for protection instead?
Strangely enough, the rules now say that adding a knife to my pistol, or just carrying one independently is legal, but laws are flakey things that change constantly. Either way, the fact remains that knives take room to swing and allot of strength to use affectively. Ask any surgeon how easy it is to make a meaningful incision on a still patient with a sharpened scalpel. Now realize your attacker will be thrashing about and could knock the knife from your hand, possibly using it on you instead. No thanks to that, say I.
My answer is, yes, four different studies that I have used to very affectively defend myself in the past. There I learned the usual kicks and punches, as well as how to use my cane as a weapon along with techniques that may frighten some in the fact they remove a sighted assailant’s greatest advantage over me, “their vision”. However against an armed assailant, Marshal Arts training is largely useless. Bullets travel much faster than the body and only in the movies will you find someone dodging live fire and kicking a weapon out of an assailant’s hand.
10. How about less lethal methods like pepper spray, a stun gun or even a Taser?
I am not an expert on such weapons, but I have seen news reports, as I am sure you have, where even trained police officers get such weapons turned on them after unsuccessfully using them to subdue those who are insane, on drugs or alcohol. As far as the use of a chemical spray, similar factors for effectiveness also apply. Besides, a sudden shift of Wind might give you a very unpleasant surprise. Tasers, to my knowledge, cannot be carried concealed legally in certain jurisdictions and that makes it, like carrying a gun openly, able to be taken away and used on you instead. A gun works on everybody, neutralizing the attacker in the shortest amount of time. And yet, if you are too uneasy about having and or using one, it is best to try something else, as without proper training coupled with the emotional and mental stability required at the point in a conflict where a gun might come into play, you could pose more of a danger to yourself or others.
11. So should all blind people be allowed to have a gun?
Like I said years ago when asked this very question on my first ever big interview, “If they have the right temperament and the right training, then, yes.” However, just like not every sighted person has what it takes to have a gun, not every blind person has the skills, emotional and mental stability, or the basic will to keep and use a firearm safely and affectively. I would think other minorities would be extremely upset if everyone believed that they could be generalized like that.
12. So to clarify, are you a Gun Control Advocate, or are you pro-gun?
There in lies the main problem, in why does one need to be in either camp. Only by both sides reaching out to one another in mutual respect over their opposing views will the issue of gun violence in this country be solved. Simply vilifying and deleting people who don’t agree with you is something you do on the internet, not in the real world. And so, I have chosen the narrow, hard to find, line between both sides, which I admit has proven to be a very uncomfortable position to take at times. Let’s put it this way, you can call me “A Gun Responsibility Advocate” when it comes to a camp title in this matter.
Everyone who is a responsible, legal American citizen should have the right to protect themselves with any firearm they want, but should be trained to operate that weapon within the framework of their own personal limitations. I do believe in shooting tests, however creating them in a certain way just to block a group of people is discrimination wrapped in public safety, arbitrary to say the least. Personally, I think that having people take courses in just how to safely use a gun in self-defense is much better for safety, since such instruction can be customized to fit the individual. And although I have this crazy belief that any new CCW permit applicant should at least have fired a gun once before carrying in public, formal shooting tests should be recognized as not having a “Real World” application. I’ve never heard of cardboard firing back, have you?
14. What is your view on the issue of assault rifles?
I know this is a highly-charged issue, but personally, I am not in favor of furthering restrictions on the types of firearms that can be owned by law-abiding citizens. There are enough laws on the books, so just enforce them and you will save lives, instead of appearing to almost allow mass shootings in order to use the emotional response from such horrendous acts to further restrict the freedoms of others. Let’s be clear, “an assault rifle” is not a machinegun. Those have been illegal to own privately since the 1920s. As the owner of both an AR15 and an AK47, I can tell you that such firearms are no more than scary-looking, one-trigger pull/one-shot weapons with lots of room for ammo. They do have too much power for day-to-day personal protection and should be given the respect they deserve in the taking of measures to secure them from those who would abuse their power, but they have a place among collectors, target shooters, and some states do allow them to be used for hunting. Some of the uninformed voices out there that continuely mistakingly link assault rifles with their fully automatic cousins, also state that these “weapons of war” don’t have a place in a “civilized society”, since you don’t need a machinegun to hunt. But what constitutes a “weapon of war”? Even a standard 30.06 bolt-action rifle is used by snipers on the battlefield to hunt humans, instead of deer with a better bullet to kill ratio than what you can get out of rapid firing a semi-automatic assault rifle. Opinions aren’t facts and the fact remains that the constitution did not say “The right of the people to hunt, shall not be infringed.” Thus limiting the Second Amendment to weapons used for the sport. It clearly states, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Which is a much broader term that legal scholars will be debating forever.
15. Do you use an assault rifle to hunt being blind?
Not so far, but I am grateful for the option in the jurisdictions that allow such weapons to be used in the sport. Generally for me, the practice of using such weapons to take down game is largely unnecessary, as to me, it diminishes the concept of “Fair Chase” by allowing the hunter to overwhelm the game with a spray and pray type of marksmanship. However, I do not condemn others for choosing such weapons to take down game, it’s their right and I respect that, but I guess I am secure enough in my shooting ability that a one shot-one kill hunting rifle is all I need heading afield.
16. What caused you to make the transition from anti-hunter to avid sportsman?
Historically, hunters saved many game species from government programs designed to open up the west to ranchers and farmers by placing bounties on large predators like the wolf, bear, and mountain lion. Along these same lines, over 4,000 bison were killed by only one man, Buffalo Bill Cody. So to the rescue came hunters, who were soon going to see their sport reduced to a long nature hike with the whitetail herd numbering less than 300,000 continent-wide at the turn of the 20th Century. And so armed with this knowledge and with many sportsmen in my family, I gave the sport a try, figuring if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t do it again. Below is a video of my drive down the very same game trail where I made the transition from militant anti-hunter to Avid sportsman by harvesting my first buck, fall 2008.
I have since discovered that there is no greater friend to nature than a responsible hunter. Every tag and or license purchased goes to various programs, such as establishing and maintaining parks and refuges, monitoring and managing the numbers of game, fighting the onset and spread of diseases, and even funding law enforcement measures against poaching. Therefore, I feel that I am playing a greater role now as a sportsman than before in my former role as an anthropomorphic obstructionalist.
17. Are you really the first completely blind person in history to get a permit to carry a gun?
This topic has been researched to death over the years by many skeptics, and although there have been people with varying degrees of visual impairments who have obtained gun permits, most just to own them, there has been none before who have been successful in obtaining a CCW permit, let alone two, being completely blind throughout the process. Just the shear number of live fire exercises I have completed successfully with documentation from some of the most recognized authorities in firearms should put to rest any controversy over my legitimacy. The closest example I ever have personally come across was a man by the name of Paul W. Starnes, who in 1960, had applied for a permit to carry a gun in Atlanta, GA. Officials at the time planned to refuse his application, as no proficiency test was administered, nor documentation to prove his claim of having 20 years experience with firearms. Mr. Starnes’s could see shapes and bright lights, indicating that he had some useable vision. He died in 1964.
18. Have you ever actually been attacked when you had the permit?
The answer is yes, but I haven’t spoken about it before due to pending court action that has just recently concluded. On June 9th, 2009, I was ambushed on the street in broad daylight by more than one assailant, but not one of them human. You see, my attackers were three very large German shepherds. Yes, I sustained severe and permanent injuries requiring surgery with more possible in the future. No, I didn’t have my gun on me at the time, nor my guide dog either for which I am forever thankful, because he would have been more than likely killed in such an attack. It has happened before.
It was during the safest part of the day and it was a quick errand. I was tired from dealing with private matters, so being attacked was the farthest thing from my mind. And that, I can tell you, is when things are more than likely to happen, when you are caught off guard. It did however reassert the reason why I got the permit in the first place, and like I told the judge during the hearing, I carry now all the time and next time I will have to shoot to which he replied that I have that right.
20. Okay, but if you would have had your weapon, you could have defended yourself, right?
Have you ever seen pack behavior in action? They come at you from in front, behind, and from the side all at once. It is like being in a tent in a windstorm. All you can do is cover yourself the best you can and if I would have dropped a hand to draw a weapon, I wouldn’t be here today writing this. It however has given me a certain appreciation of their power when I hear wolves in the wild, while hunting deer or bear.
Having a concealed weapon for protection doesn’t guarantee anything. It has its limits. For example, defending yourself from a sniper. They are hidden from view, aiming at you from along distance through a high-powered scope. In that situation, as with my dog attack, that gun in your pocket won’t do much to save you, but having one does at least give you a chance.
In the past, I have been called both legally blind and totally blind by those assuming medical knowledge of my handicap, but I have been certified totally/completely blind by any number of doctors, since I lost my sight suddenly in July of 1983 at age ten. A person with legal blindness has 2200 vision and is able to use their eyesight in a limited capacity, distinguish shapes, movement, and sources of light. A person without their corrective lenses can be considered legally blind. I however see the same, eyes open, or closed. I do face those I am addressing, but I am only focusing on the sound of their voice to maintain normalcy. I do squint at bright lights and blink like everyone else, however these are involuntary functions of the body in response to pain, as automatic as a heartbeat. I do however have an extra sense that allows me to detect objects at a distance without sight. This is called facial vision.
22. What is facial vision and do all blind people have it?
Facial vision, or Human Echolocation, is a scientifically proven way that blind people use sound waves to detect objects in their paths at a distance. It is something on the order of echolocation that bats and whales use, but is far less developed in humans. Some, not all, blind people have this sense and the degree that they have it varies from person-to-person. I myself can gage the size of the object and its range to a certain degree as sound waves bounce off my facial muscles. This can make it appear as if I have some vision, but any doctor will tell you that I am totally blind.
23. If you are too blind to get a driver’s license, why should you have a gun permit?
So following that logic, the Second Amendment should be amended to read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people who drive automobiles to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Remember, bearing arms is a constitutional right and driving a vehicle is a privilege. And if I remember my history, people were still riding horses back when the Second Amendment was written; a time before Presidents Lincoln and or Ford were even in office. Besides, being able to drive is done by those adjudicated unfit to own firearms, due to medical and mental conditions, or past criminal behavior and such gets little or no attention as a matter of public safety. The fact remains that more people are killed in car accidents than firearms every year in this nation, although gun deaths are more prominent as an issue.
24. Why should I accept blind people having guns and even carrying them?
Blind people in this nation are American citizens too with the same God-given right to self-defense embodied in the Second Amendment of this country. A person blind from birth may not understand how a sighted person can process all the visual images necessary to drive a car, but that doesn’t mean that the blind person has a right to tell them to pull it over and sell the car because they don’t believe they themselves could do it without an accident. Similarly, those with sight have no right to project their personal misgivings about the capabilities of the blind to safely use and carry firearms onto others just because they have no idea how they themselves could do it safely without eyesight.
Although such a fact is generally ignored in the greater debate, it is nevertheless true that the vast majority of accidental gun deaths and all of the highly-publicized mass shootings out there aren’t committed by blind people with guns. This said, why pick on a group that isn’t the real problem? Is it because it seems easy and popular, or is it to get a seemingly firm foothold to try and revoke the Second Amendment all together? Using accepted stereotyping of a group of people without real foundation has been the basis of discrimination since the beginning of time. Remember, many past policies we view today as wrong were once also viewed as common and sensible A.K.A “commonsense”. And just for the record, how many people so far have been killed by others prompted into action by the appearance of something they presume to be dangerous, resulting in a fatal mistake?
25. So where did you first receive your training with firearms as a blind person?
I began my training in firearms at age 15 during a summer encampment in July of 1988 at a National Guard Base here in North Dakota. Being a blind cadet in an USAF auxiliary, I was given the opportunity to both drive my first vehicle in an armored personnel carrier, and fire my first gun, a fully automatic M16 in which I was given hands-on instruction by a Range Specialist. This has aided me greatly in the disassembly, maintenance, and reassembly of its civilian cousin, my current AR15.
26. What other subsequent gun training have you received since then?
In 1991, I took an official course in pistol marksmanship through the Army ROTC As an 18-year old blind civilian college student. This training was daily for several months with a variety of handguns under the tutelage of a trained military sniper, who worked with me using the United States military’s guidelines of firearm proficiency. Below is a sample of that instruction in audio form.
On the final exam, I scored 105 out of a possible 100 on a human silhouette do to a deflected shot, placing a 4.0 for the class on my college transcript. Mysteriously, this same course developed a prerequisite of military enlistment to register the following semester.
27. Have you had any training in pistols from any other official sources?
Yes, in October 2000, I took the skills I learned from the Army ROTC marksmanship program to the local police pistol range and under law enforcement guidelines of proficiency, I qualified for my first Concealed Weapons Permit in my home state of North Dakota. See top of page for a picture of that half-silhouette target with the required number of shots taken at seven yards, using the same 357-magnum featured in the photo. According to a police officer I spoke with at the range after completing the shooting test, I had just basically taken the same periodic live fire exam that all officers take to keep current with their own pistols.
28. How have you kept up your skills with firearms since then?
Besides occasionally privately going out to firing ranges for a fun afternoon of plinking away on various targets, I have had numerous proficiency tests with rifles for various hunting opportunities, some through the Department of the Interior, all at the basic distance of 100-yards, certifying me to take a shot at up to 300-yards with a high-powered rifle. I had the Opportunity to demonstrate this for the CEO of Savage Arms, who was my hunting partner during a hunt for pronghorn antelope in Wyoming. That 156-yard dead-on shot on the second fastest land animal on Earth I took with his own personal 270 bolt action rifle, shooting through the open side window of a standing pickup truck by state-issued permit. Kind of a drive-by shooting, minus the driving if you will.
"That was the best shot I had seen in 11 years," so Mr. Coburn later said about that particular shot. Nice to know that the head of a major arms manufacture had enough confidence in my marksmanship to bring only one bullet into the field after seeing me practice at the range.
30. What truly happened with Minnesota’s gun permit?
Warned about my blindness by the very same NRA instructor who certified my shooting ability to complete the permit process, the sheriff at the center of the denial refused to sign off on his part of the gun permit. This forced the issue into the courts. I then turned to various organizations for help with legal representation in this matter. Needless to say, the topic of a blind person being included in the Bill of Rights was just too hot for anyone to handle. Therefore, I was forced to represent myself in court, loosing most of my basic American rights in the process, the right to bear arms and the right to a fare trial among others.
To add insult to injury, the sheriff, up for reelection within months of all this, told me outside the courtroom in front of witnesses that he had no personal problem on signing off on my gun permit if the judge ruled in my favor, not personally seeing me as a threat to public safety. So could such be considered political butt covering? Just the fact that other sheriffs in other jurisdictions around the nation have gone on the record that the blind are fully capable of safely carrying and using firearms should give a person pause over this lone sheriff’s refusal to sign my completed application in such a “Shall Issue” State as Minnesota. If that wasn’t bad enough, out in the parking lot, the very same NRA instructor/whistle blower who really got this all started expressed to me his wish that I would have asked him, when I had him on the witness stand, "If I should be given the permit." It would have been his testimony that “yes, I should be given the permit.” Even the way the judge’s ruling is worded appears to violate the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which is I believe the reason they won’t release the court records to the press.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, is a federal law that encompasses the entire United States, surpassing all state and local laws.
To qualify for protection under the ADA, a person cannot present a direct threat to the health or safety of others. Direct threat means a significant risk of substantial harm. The decision of what constitutes such risk cannot be based on stereotypes or myths about blindness. It must be based on actual facts and other legitimate information. There is no scientific or statistical data to substantiate the claim that the blind pose a greater threat than the sighted when it comes to ownership, use, or even carrying of firearms. The blind have not been involved in mass shootings, high-profile gun crimes, or accidental shootings. They are not even associated in greater numbers with gun deaths in general. If anything, a look at the statistics would show that the blind are if anything safer when it comes to firearms.
But when the deck is stacked against you from the start, “You can’t fight city hall”, because do you really think a judge would have ruled in my favor against a licensed attorney, making the need for the thousands of dollars spent in tuition to law school appear largely unnecessary? You be the judge.
Yes, for years now I’ve used my Utah permit to legally do what that ruling said I couldn’t. And with a clean record of carrying in that same sheriff’s jurisdiction, I further prove the absurdity of the whole fiasco.
32. Are there any examples of blind marksmanship found in law enforcement or the military?
My wife and I would like to give our personal thanks to the men and women of the Navy for giving us this surprise private VIP Tour of the battleship USS Missouri on March 3, 2013.
The answer is yes, many acceptable techniques that have earned metals over the years for sighted servicemen and women, however earning scorn when used by blind American civilians. Below are just a few quick examples of what I like to call “the ultimate expression of blind marksmanship”.
Note: the following has nothing what so ever to do with the defensive application of pistols by the blind, since such is more an exercise in good judgment than in good marksmanship due to the conditions set forth by the law where lethal force can legally be applied. See questions two, three, and four for clarification on this topic.
Example one: Firing Artillery.
Not unlike how the cannons of the historical Battleship Missouri featured on the main page worked to shell Iraqi positions in the first Gulf War, many different systems of fire control assist the gunner to hit a target, which can be up to ten, or more miles over the horizon, thus beyond the gunner’s direct line of sight. Remember, a blind shooters horizon is anything on the edge of ear shot, where a sighted shooter’s horizon is the skyline, or curve of the earth, unless interrupted by obstructions.
Example two: Snipers using 50-caliber rifles.
Capable of taking out personnel and even battle tanks at ranges of over a mile, such a weapon, especially in urban warfare, is almost always used in teams of two, which consists of the man behind the trigger A.K.A “the sniper”, and his “spotter” A.K.A “scope man or woman”, who uses their vision to tell the gunner where to aim. Occasionally, even the best sniper misses, and so the spotter then verbally adjusts the sniper’s aim to successfully hit the target, which can be completely or partially obscured by a brick wall, or other such solid object that must be punched through first. Such a verbal adjustment in shooting circles is called “indexing the shot” or just “indexing” and is a term that refers to any second party communicating what they see to direct the gunner’s aim into the target. The difference between how these sniper teams work together is not dissimilar to how a blind hunter and their scope man or woman works to safely bring down game in the most humane manner possible.
Example three: safely handling weapons by touch alone.
To the uninformed, such might appear crazy and dangerous, but remember that Navy Seals and other celebrated members of the Special Forces are trained similarly to disassemble, reassemble, load and “clear their weapon”, or “drop the magazine and feel the open chamber to insure the weapon is safe and empty”,. This is all done by touch and in complete darkness, so to prevent light from revealing their presence and position to the enemy. As an aside, Braille and other touch communication is used frequently on missions for a similar reason. Therefore, it should be fine for Americans who just happen to be blind to do the same with training.
33. So where might I find gun training as a blind person?
First of all, keep in mind that you are fighting a seemingly universal stigma attached to the blind, which conjures images of a blind person opening up suddenly like an idiot for no real reason, leveling everything around them. I know such is lunacy, but there it is. Don’t waste your efforts in trying to convince those who have their minds made up. Someone somewhere will be receptive to the idea. It might just take a while, so have patience.
That said, you might want to start with friends and family, who might be in the military, law enforcement, are hunters or even who conceal carry themselves. Failing that, you can try and network at local gun shops and or shows. I myself came across hunters who turned me onto the sport at a NRA convention five years prior to my heading afield. So remember, with thought, courage, and persistence, anything is possible. So Just check local listings and news outlets for up-coming events and keep at it.
34. Can I have a gun for home defense being blind?
Who knows your home better, you or an intruder, and therefore who has the home field advantage, so the easy answer is of course, yes. However, in some states you need a permit and formal training to even buy and keep a gun. Still, you may not have to pull the trigger, because no one can mistake the racking of a shotgun. And if they are foolish enough to not turn tail and run at the sound, then intent could be established.
35. Can you describe how a blind person can hit targets at the range?
The below information is for sporting purposes only and should be used exclusively at a designated firing range for that purpose alone. That said, for the serious blind target shooter, there are special scopes that can convert color to sound, as in the case of Jim Miekka, a totally blind target shooter, student and friend of mine, who was struck and killed by a passing vehicle on August 19, 2014, shortly after obtaining his Florida concealed weapons permit.
With a scope of his own design, he was able to hit targets with nearly 100% accuracy at 100-yards under controlled conditions not unlike blind British Paralympic marksman. However, accuracy can be achieved outside such prescribed conditions by shooting from the hip, using sound to hone in on a beacon. Such a technique is referred to as “Acoustic Shooting”. The best thing I have found for me is a series of slow rhythmic beeps such as a smoke detector taped to the target, but anything will do as long as its tone is not overwhelming with a lot of echoing feedback. Measure the pulses in each ear and focus until the sound is equal in both ears. This means that the beacon is centered with your nose.
Square your shoulders and memorize where your body is when the desired frequency comes to the center.
Using your mind's eye, picture the gun's barrel before you and the target beyond. Draw an imaginary line going from your center of gravity, between your wrists and along where you imagine the gun's sights to be, using hand placement as a reference. This line should be able to be drawn from your eyebrows, neck, shoulders and heart to the target.
Tighten your grip on the gun to the point of making the gun shake slightly. Then relax your hold until the shaking stops and a firm, but steady grip is established. Adjust your stance as required for the desired spread, always maintaining one firm foot pointing towards the target so you will not loose orientation during readjustment and to absorb the shock of the gun's recoil.
Raise the gun slowly to check the alignment from your heart to your palms holding the gun. Gravity and body positioning are two constants that anyone can use to accomplish this.
Controlling the rhythm of your breathing can help steady the gun.
The trigger pull should be so gentle as to surprise you.
The distances and conditions in which you will be taking down game big or small are not at all like hitting paper targets at the firing range. With every species you hunt, new weapons and techniques need to be put into place to be successful in the field. Know your weapon well and accept the fact that your target is alive and this is a 3-d world where the game has a 4 out of 5 chance of getting away from even the best hunter. Remember, a true hunter, sighted or blind, believes in making a clean and humane shot, as to minimize undue suffering in the harvesting process. And since you aren’t going to hit anything out in space, a sighted assistant is necessary to insure safety and accuracy. If you feel a bit diminished by needing assistance, take heart that even the mightiest hunters of African big game require Gun Bearers, so you are in good company. However, your guide should never feel free to touch your weapon during the aiming process, as this will increase the chance of a misfire. only in an emergency should more than one mind try and control the same weapon. But with experience comes confidence and therefore teamwork should be the end result with two people working together for a successful hunt. Now, let’s break it down, since a duck is not a deer and weather conditions and terrain are never a constant for any hunt.
37. What is your view on blind hunters using laser sights?
To me, the use of laser sights to hunt is an extra step that is largely unnecessary with good marksmanship. It does benefit your spotter, but a steady hand is way better for taking down game, due to the fact the animal is not going to wait as you fumble around lining up the dot. My personal preference is to use a pistol scope with a 2.5-foot eye relief mounted where a traditional rifle scope would be. This allows for a hands-off approach for indexing the shot. This means that your guide can just talk in the shot, instead of touching you, which naturally disrupts the aiming process with extra jostling of the rifle by the presence of a second party. Just a breath taken by your guide at the wrong moment can mean the difference between bagging the game and going home with an empty tag.
This isn’t as odd as you might think. There are blind Olympic skeet shooters and even beeping clay pidgins, but as for wing shooting living birds, the golden rule of hunting for the blind is “if you can hear it, aim for it”. You can hone in on the honking of a Flock of geese from a great distance. You can hear a pheasant’s explosion of feathers as it rises to 20-feet before heading downwind, or the bicycle tire sound of a teal duck’s wings going across the sky. But as per the advice of fellow duck hunters, I keep my hearing open and free to collect sound. IN this, I have found that, at least for me, the gun’s report washes harmlessly up and over me when using number 4 or 7 bird shot on a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun with a normal barrel length. This hasn’t affected my hearing. However, if you have concerns, just use hearing protection and have a sighted guide place their hands on your triceps. Go with their swing by following the pressure of their palms. Stay smooth and follow through to insure that the pattern of pellets flows to spread the shot as wide as possible to try and figuratively paint the bird out of the sky. Remember, a shotgun is a paintbrush and should be treated as such.
This sounds like a stupid question, but keep in mind that people still confuse service dogs with guide dogs, although they are two totally different types of training. One retrieves fallen objects and fetches the phone, while guide dogs navigate objects and hazards you find while walking. That said, a good bird dog may be able to track and retrieve, but navigating city streets is a whole other ball of wax. However, no hunter’s résumé should exclude the use of a good hunting dog. They are a key ingredient for blind hunters to be successful bird hunting. They are easy to track with the amount of noise they make through brush or water and are very much necessary for finding and flushing birds, including the most important part, retrieving them once dropped. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t want to stumble around for hours, sweeping a cane or tree branch fruitlessly for a chance hit on a tiny feathered target buried in the brush. Above all, remember you are a team and your canine partner is like a guide dog in that they just live for this kind of work. And yet, watch out for over enthusiastic canines that will sometimes take it upon themselves to run down ground running birds, bringing you a thrashing prize that will peck and scratch a few holes into you.
40. How can a blind hunter target game at ground level?
With hunting animals at ground level, use a fixed rest when possible. The blind hunter would do best to sit, however, this isn’t always possible, especially during still hunts. There, kneeling or leaning against something sturdy like a tree or stump will do if you use it as a fixed place to orientate yourself and steady your weapon. If your target makes any sound, aim your nose and square your shoulders at the source. This will provide a general direction which cuts back on the need for drastic adjustments. I personally find flexing muscles in the desired direction during adjustments much better than moving your whole body to aim, since even a breath at the wrong time can get your crosshairs off the mark, which is why breath control is so very important in targeting. By keeping your head and shoulders level, your scope man or woman will have a clear view of the crosshairs. With their fingers only touching your left and right shoulders, your scope man or woman can direct your aim. Here they have a couple of options. One is to draw an imaginary crucifix across your neck and back. Following this, he or she can tap your right or left shoulder for an adjustment to the right or left. To get the level, they can tap the middle of your back for down and tap the back of your neck for up. The urgency of the taps can be a wordless indication of just how far to adjust. Two, if such makes you more secure about the shot, you could instruct your guide to apply steady pressure with their palms against your shoulders, lifting and lowering them together to adjust the level not unlike the controls on an airplane, while steering them like a bicycle’s handlebars left or right, adjusting the angle through pressure. Doing this, you need to follow the slow steady pressure of your guide’s directions to aim. Thirdly, If no ear protection is present and the game is way beyond earshot, your scope man or woman can just say right, left, up, down, and fire. This verbal technique is demonstrated by me at the end of this video below, Wyoming Signatures on KCWC-TV
Now, this is the most important part. In order to give the command to fire, you and your guide must agree on the right signal. I can’t tell you how many times confusion at the trigger has cost me a shot, or made one less than on the mark. If hearing protection is in place, your guide might want to tap three times rapidly on a shoulder. They can also whisper, “Fire” if no hearing protection is in place and the game is far away.
42. So do you have any regrets getting a gun permit?
I don’t regret exercising my right to carry, use, and possess firearms, but I do regret how some reacted to what was really an historical accomplishment. I viewed the getting of the permit as having the potential to fully include the blind in the Bill of Rights. And yet, such has opened my eyes to the law of the jungle nature of our system in that only those with means and good physical stature have complete access to the constitution. This is unfortunate and will move nothing in a positive manner towards solving the problem of gun violence without taking the rights away from innocent others.
Having successfully obtained official documentation from the National Rifle Association, local law-enforcement, and even the U.S. military by passing their guidelines of firearm proficiency, I have used these skills to carry firearms in public for over 13-years as the first totally blind concealed weapons permit holder in the United States—a fact well-researched to be now indisputable. In so doing, I have come to realize that no one in the gun debate is choosing to listen to the facts, immediately going instead to entrenched beliefs that the blind do not recognize and work around their limitations regarding firearms to insure safety and accuracy. That is why I have turned my life’s focus to the great outdoors, where a certain sanity has my marksmanship evaluated only by the amount of game in my freezer. In my opinion, the gun debate has become a repetitive dirge that makes the over-used phrase “Commonsense” appear to have nothing common, or sensible about it. The only thing that unites both sides it seems is the issue of the blind to exercise their Second Amendment rights. In this, everyone seems to think disaster, but where are the numbers? There are none, so I say, “Stop making an issue where none exists.”
Ask yourself, when do people generally feel most vulnerable to attack? The answer is, of course. When your vision is at its weakest, “at night”. And who better to safely maneuver and assess their surroundings in this largely alien environment than someone who always has to do it, sun or moon. While imaginations are rare and wonderful things, they should never be used to conjure up outrageous fictitious scenarios in order to try and take away the freedoms of any group of people. What those opposed to blind people being allowed to exercise their Second Amendment Right to Bear Arms are essentially saying to the mugger or rapist out there is, “Target blind men and women. You can do whatever you want as they can’t identify you, nor will we allow them to defend themselves against you.” And is it then oh right to deny blind people other rights, free speech, do process, and so forth, until those of lesser vision are reduced to something less than human? “It won’t happen to me, because I’m me,” is foolish thinking, as anyone can loose their sight from illness, accident, violence, or old age. No one is immune, trust me, and I don’t think you want your freedoms to vanish with your eyesight.
But always remember, carrying guns is not fun, cool, or somehow makes you a police officer or live action hero. A CCW permit is only meant for the defense of you and yours, meaning yourself; a close friend or relative. But even if you use your weapon in the most righteous manner and escape criminal prosecution, somebody somewhere will most likely file a civil action against you that will require years of lawyers fees and time in court. In addition, there will more than likely be a social price to pay. You may loose your job. You might be excommunicated by the congregation at your place of worship. Your spouse might divorce you. Friends and even relatives might desert you, finding the thought of you killing someone a little too tough to accept. But at the risk of being blunt here, you have to ask yourself if spending your life in a wheelchair or lying in a coffin is a better alternative? The bottom-line is to make sure when you drop that hammer that it is out of 110% necessity.
Above all remember, brains are more important than sight for safe carrying, as it continues to be proven true on the nightly news. Since The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Second Amendment as an individual right, remember that you are an American citizen too and thus you do have a constitutional right to Keep and Bear Arms.