Should The Physically Handicapped Have Firearms?

Herschel Smith asked that question on his blog a couple of days ago, and answered it very well, I thought.  I highly recommend that you read the whole thing.

He cites a ‘loathsome worm’ who believes that “Severely handicapped people are a danger to themselves and others when armed”.  Since I’ve helped to arm and train several ‘severely’ handicapped persons, as well as dozens who are less ‘severely’ handicapped, I think I know more than a little about the subject.  I thought I’d put in my $0.02 worth.

First of all, many disabled and/or handicapped persons face a lifetime of being told what to do by others, being pushed around as if they didn’t exist.  People seem to assume that because they’re physically less capable, they’re mentally retarded as well.  They’ll talk about them, in their presence, as if they were still infants (or adult deaf mutes).  They’ll ask others for advice on how they should do things, get it, then try to make them do it that way, never once asking the disabled person whether they want that or would prefer to do it another way.  It’s a ridiculous attitude . . . but I’ve seen it far too often to be in any doubt about how widespread it is.

I’ve seen this in particular with people (particularly ladies) who are physically handicapped.  It’s a huge leap forward in self-confidence for them to realize that they can control a firearm, shoot accurately, and get a tight, neat group in the bullseye of a target.  However, their more able-bodied relatives and friends are often horrified when they find out.  They seem to think that the disabled shooter is far more likely to hurt him- or herself, rather than be empowered to defend themselves in a crisis.  I’ve had some people like that literally steal the firearms of the people I’ve trained, on the grounds that they’re not competent to have them.  When I’ve put my foot down and insisted they return the weapons, they’ve threatened to call the cops on me.  Some have actually done so.  Since I usually owned the firearms in question, I’ve been able to get them back:  but even then, some cops who don’t understand physical disability have had the gall to say that a handicapped person should not be allowed to own one, regardless of the evidence of their own two eyes that the person’s more than capable of handling it safely.  It infuriates me, so it must be absolutely, outrageously unbearable for the handicapped shooter (who, as I say, is mentally as normal as you or I).

Obviously, some disabilities are so severe that they prevent a person from safely handling any type of firearm.  Other disabilities prevent the safe handling of certain types of firearms, but not others (e.g. auto pistol slides may be too heavy or stiff for the shooter to retract, but he/she can open and close the cylinder of a revolver with no trouble, eject the fired cases and reload it with fresh ammunition).  Some can’t trust themselves to reload a magazine or perform fine motor skills under stress;  but if one leaves a loaded firearm where they can reach it, they can use it in an emergency.  There are all sorts of accommodations one can make, depending on the needs of the individual shooter.  Of course, one needs a competent instructor to make those calls and provide the necessary training.  Herschel Smith cites the example of one such man in his article.  I’m another.

So far, three of my students (that I know of – there may have been more) have used the training I gave them to defend themselves against attackers who thought their confinement to wheelchairs meant they were an easy target.  All three of my students are alive, uninjured, and happy.  All three of their attackers . . . not so much.  You have no idea what a warm fuzzy happy feeling that gives me.

(It’s an even warmer, fuzzier, happier feeling when one gets a phone call at five in the morning about one such student.  It’s from the police officer who’s just taken her statement.  Would I please come to her town again soon, to train a class of half a dozen ladies who are all more or less handicapped?  He’ll make all the arrangements and provide the ammo.  All I have to do is show up and teach.  Did I accept his invitation?  You bet I did!)



  1. Be not afraid of any man
    No matter what his size
    When trouble rises
    Call on me
    And I will equalize

    Goes double for the handicapped, I'd say.

  2. This insanity goes right along with the recent threat to have all firearms taken away from all veterans who've ever gotten help from the VA for PTSD – because we're obviously crazy and untrustworthy and probably eeevilll…

  3. First, as a cop, I would never presume to tell anyone that they can or can not have a firearm for self defence. Not without a court order, at least. I am a firearms instructor, and unless I actually see how someone handles it, how am I to know their capabilities.

    My father had parkinsons when he finally obtained his conceal carry permit. When he was checking out handguns to purchase, he recognized that he could not work the slide on, say, a Glock. He bought a Ruger .22 Revolver. It worked for him. Little to no recoil, and no slide to manipulate.

    But it was HIS choice. Not some cop, or dealer or some other busy body that thought they knew better. People who presume to know better what someone else should be carrying need a big dose of MYOB.

    Great post.

  4. I'm handicapped. I have no ability to run, or roll, away from someone who is trying to do me great bodily harm (which in itself could kill me).

    While I try to stay away from stupid people in stupid places every once in a while they spill out and over to where I'm trying to mind my own business and get on with my life such as it is. I'm pretty much stuck with only two of the three "Ds" (Defuse, Deescalate, Disengage).

    But, yes, there are those who would rather see me beaten and possibly killed than admit to the fact that while some parts of me do not work per spec there is no reason not to allow me to protect myself.

    Peter, keep up the good work you do. I hope that one of those stories you allude to was in some way helped by our conversation some time ago.

    stay safe.

  5. Why wouldn't handicapped people be able, ethically, to own guns? That is stupid! I do draw the line at blind people as they can not, pretty much by definition identify the target. I wouldn't have an issue with a blind person owning a gun, t's just that shooting would be inherently unsafe.

  6. …something about the "…shall not be infringed" thing – what's that all about? Seems to me that 'shall not' means, well …. shall not: period.
    It's just the rules of the game.

  7. Regarding blindness:

    Some years back, Mas Ayoob stated that if he was blind, he would carry a revolver loaded with blanks. He figured that if someone tried to mug him, they had to get within touching distance, which works both ways. He knows what the effect of a contact shot does to a body from the expanding gases. He figured that would be a safe weapon to use, as it would have little effect on bystanders, beyond the noise.

    Would not work with an auto since it wouldn't cycle properly, and would tend to be non-functional when pushed against a body, due to the likely out-of-battery movement of the slide.

  8. Here's a question for you: Do you know if there's a listing anywhere of instructors who can properly tailor their teaching for people with various disabilities, and the locations they serve? I'd like to have a resource on hand for some of the folks I know who got out with varying degrees of issues with hands/arms/back if they start having difficulty with their normal carry routine.

  9. @hightecrebel: Unfortunately, no, I don't think there's any such list. However, you'll find that many reputable firearms instructors, as well as many local shooting ranges and firearms dealers, will know of such individuals in their area. Ask them for introductions and referrals.

  10. @hightecrebel: It's a good test of the quality and credibility of the instructor whether or not you have a handicap/disability. If they can nor/will not adjust their training to meet the needs of the student the best thing to do is back away slowly.

    I've had both good and bad luck seeking someone who will work with a shooter who cannot use a 2-handed grip (I tip over without the cane) and will deal with the fact that if I see the threat I can't see the sights (Pardon me, sir. Would you mind waiting to kill me until I put on my reading glasses?). Best trainer I ever worked with spent all of one day working with me on maneuvering a power wheelchair before he would let me pick up a gun.

    Pro tips – water-based paintball pellets are easier to clean up and wearing a steel plate is very comfortable when it's attached to the chair back.

    stay safe.

  11. Another gimpy guy here who, like Skidmark, uses a wheelchair when I am out of the house and has a place to sit everywhere in the house as standing/walking is painful. At one time, fighting wasn't just an option for me but a fun pastime. Those days are LONG gone. Running away isn't possible. Hell, walking away for more than a few yards is right out! My mind is still functional as are my eyes (mostly) and my hands. I carry, openly and concealed depending on what/where/when/why.

  12. seems to me the handicapped stand more in need of self defense options since many of them cannot run.
    if my kid were handicapped i'd be sure he were well armed most of the time.

  13. It bothers me that you even used that question as a title.
    Why? Because idiots don't read the text, they only read the title, and then they assume, since you posed the question, that there is actually some question.

  14. At a local shooting range, a couple of times I saw a guy in a wheelchair shooting. He was a good shot, too. I would LOVE to see the faces of any would-be muggers of this guy when he pulled out his pistol and shot said would-be muggers!


  15. The problem is: They lump ALL handicaps together as one big collective overall category.
    There are all kinds of variations of handicaps, not all of which totally disable said individual. But they have one uniform standard for classifying and handling "disabilities".

    And you're spot-on about the type of social-rank bigotry those considered "lesser" types have to deal with from all the smug egotistic favored "normal" types.
    Let's not forget all those condescending "flawless" individuals are probably divorced or in bad marriages. Or they're in college acquiring loads of student loan debt. Or they're underemployed, working in a monotonous cubicle day after day, living from paycheck-to-paycheck, constantly paranoid of getting "laid off" any moment. Or deep in financial debt as a result of overspending on trendy products or eating out often in expensive restaurants or hanging out in flashy clubs every weekend, or going on elaborate vacations.
    As you can see: There are plenty of OTHER ways anyone can be "disabled".

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