As you can see by the title of this post, this is my "soap box" post. I don't get on a soap box very often, but when something gets under my skin, I sometimes just have to say something about it. If you don't like "soap boxes" you can feel free to stop reading. Also, if you don't like my opinion on what I am about to say, then feel free to share that in the comments, but please do it politely. Also, if you have not walked a mile in my shoes (or someone like me) and have a strong opinion, you might want to consider what life might be like from "this" side... at least consider it before you share how my thoughts are wrong.
Anyone who knows me, obviously knows about my eye condition. I mean, I had to quit working recently, I have not driven a car in almost 12 years (except for a few "joy rides" through the neighborhood - but it's been awhile for those) and I have a Leader Dog. It's no secret that I'm "blind".
First, let's start with "blind". Most people, when they think of blind think of Mary on Little House on the Prairie, or Helen Keller. Well, to tell you the truth, most blind people are not like either one of them. I am no exception. Most "blind" people are not completely blind, unable to see anything. Most blind people have some residual sight. Many can see colors and/or shapes, distinguish people from one another... In my case, I have about 20/40 vision in the visual field that I have. The problem for me is, that my visual field is very small. I have about 8-10 degrees of vision compared to about 180 degrees for a normal sighted person. So "blind" doesn't always mean blind!
Because of the fact that I don't drive, I tend to walk places a lot. I walk anywhere from 8-10 miles a day, and that is just what I walk for exercise. If I need to go somewhere, and I want to go on my own, and if I can, I will walk there. Many times my husband will take me, or a friend, but sometimes I just like to go places on my own. There is a gym that I go to by our home. It is about 2 1/2 miles from our house. I can get to the gym on the rail trail behind our home, through a wooded area that ends on a track at the gym. I go to the gym almost every day, so I'm on this trail frequently. Many times I am alone. I sometimes walk the trail with Chara (if I'm going a shorter distance) and many times I'm with my children. Sometimes Tim will go with me on the weekends, but for the most part, during the summer, I walk alone. It's too hot here for Chara to walk as far as I want to walk.
The other day a friend was telling me that she heard about some things that had happened on the rail trail recently. I had not heard anything about it. I don't know if it's true or not, but if it is, it's pretty bad. It got me to thinking. The fact that I walk alone on the trail started to bother me. I feel as though it is pretty safe, especially because there are always plenty of people on the trail - but still, it made me think. If something were to happen with me or the children, what would I do? There was also an event that happened a few weeks ago when I was walking. I had gone to the gym and took Sara with me. She goes to the childcare area while I take a class. On the way home, we got onto the trail and up ahead of us I saw police on 4 wheelers, police cars, police on foot as well as some running dogs. A gentleman stopped me and told me what was going on. There was someone that attempted to break into a house in a neighborhood that backs up to the trail. Someone caught him in the middle of trying to break in and he took off and used the rail trail as a way to escape. So, we stayed around the police cars until they cleared the area and opened up the trail again. Again, that made me think.
I've never let my vision impairment interfere or alter my life in any way that was not absolutely necessary. I defied the directive of the doctors who told me that I should change my career field (Chemistry) only six months after graduating from college. I didn't listen to them and had 20 years of a successful, responsible career. I only recently had to leave my job due to the vision loss. I understand though my limitations and only embrace them when it's appropriate. For example, I understand my inability to drive. I don't like it, but I have accepted it. In fact, I stopped driving about six months before I actually had to - I did not want to jeopardize the life of someone else for a selfish reason like wanting to maintain my ability to drive. I'm a very responsible person and would never put others in danger.
I talked to a friend of mine whose husband works in law enforcement. I asked him if, due to my eye condition, if I would be able to qualify for a concealed weapon permit (CWP). He talked to some people and told me that no, I could not get a CWP because of my vision loss. The state finds it too risky to assume liability in the case where I might inadvertently shoot the wrong person because of my vision loss.
It kind of made me mad. I have a right to bear arms. I have a right to be able to defend myself and the state is haphazardly taking that right away. In order to qualify for a CWP you need a valid driver's license, you need to take a class, pass a written test, pass a field shooting test and have a clear criminal record. The only issue I have is that I don't have a valid driver's license. I do however have a valid state issued ID.
I know some people would think "I think the state is right! I don't want someone with a visual impairment to have a concealed weapon"!
For those who feel that way, please let me enlighten you. It wasn't long ago that I was a hunter. I hunted deer and I was very successful. I quit several years ago because I no longer felt it was safe for me to be out in the woods with a gun... NOT because I could no longer use a gun, but because in addition to my vision loss, I also have limited night vision. Traveling in and out of the woods at dawn and dusk became difficult and I ran the risk of tripping on something, falling and hurting myself. So, I quit. When I shot though, I was a GREAT shot. I know, I know... it was with a rifle and not a pistol, but still, I was a good shot. I was more accurate and precise than people who were shooting for literally at least a decade longer than I had been.
Also, did you know that competitive shooters often wear blinders when they are shooting? They do this to eliminate the distraction of the things that are going on around them while they are shooting, so they can focus solely on the target. Well guess what? I have built in blinders! I think I missed my calling as a professional competitive shooter because God gave me the built in blinders. I think it would give me too much of an unfair advantage though - and I don't think it's a very lucrative job :)
So, here's my point. If I have a valid state issued ID, I take a class, pass a written test, have a clear criminal record and pass the field shooting test - why is it that I can't have a CWP? What would be the reason? I understand, and would even submit to the fact that my vision could change more frequently than an average person's vision, so I would be willing to have to renew my CWP more frequently, but if I can pass, I see no reason to deny me a permit and the right to defend myself and my family.
And with regard to the liability... I wonder how liable the state will feel when something happens to me or my family, and I could not defend us because I was not given the right to carry a weapon outside of my home. What will the liability for the state be then? From my perspective, they would be very liable. I hope I never have to find that out.
Oh, and the person who tries to do something to us on the trail... my guess is that they don't have a permit for the weapon that they are going to pull out and assault us with. Yet it would be so awful for someone with a vision impairment to have a permit to defend themselves from someone with criminal intent? I don't think so.
This issue feels to me like discrimination. People with disabilities should have the same rights as others, unless there is a good reason to deny them their rights. If giving them their rights would put others in harms way, or deny others their rights, then it shouldn't happen. Giving me a CWP, assuming I can pass the same acceptance criteria that is used to judge the suitability of every other person that has a permit, would not put anyone in harms way or deny them their rights! I'm not asking for special treatment - I'm just asking for equal treatment. If I can pass an equal test, why not give me equal rights.
I was so bothered by this fact, that as we were sitting at the dinner table one evening, I told Tim that I should file a lawsuit against the state for denying me the opportunity to my right to bear arms. Cameron chimed in and was horrified - "you are not really going to do that, are you mom". Ok, probably not - but then I thought, why not? I don't feel as though the state is acting in a reasonable manner. If I sit back and just let it happen, things will never change. I will have accepted something that in my eyes is incredibly wrong. I feel like it's a bad example for my kids for me to just sit back and accept something that is wrong. It would take a lot of thinking for me to go the route of challenging the state though. It isn't out of the realm of possibility though.
Maybe you have a different opinion. If so, please feel free to share it. Again though - please just do it politely. No one can understand blindness until you have lived with it. There are so many issues associated with it, you could never touch the surface in a simple blog post. Blindness impacts every area of your life - independence, work, family, freedom - and apparently some of your rights as well. I understand the necessary restrictions.... it's the unnecessary restrictions that I have a problem with. I don't give into "limitations" lightly. I do all that I can do, until the minute I literally CAN'T do it anymore. There are enough areas of my life where I do not have the right or freedom to do something. This should NOT be one of them.
I'm now stepping down from my soap box. I don't get on the box often, but I feel it's an important enough issue to discuss.
And for anyone on the trail who decides they can mess with me because they now know that I do not have the right to carry a concealed weapon - just for the record, I am allowed to carry a taser, and it's not too comfortable if I use it on you. Apparently I have the right to disable you for a period of time, but not the right to remove you as a threat to my life or the life of my family. Also for the record - when Tim is with me, he has the right to carry a weapon.... just sayin'