Texas Lawmaker Wants to Help the Blind Hunt

Texas Rep. Edmund Kuempel is introducing legislation to allow blind people to hunt live animals using laser sights.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department already permits people who are blind or visually impaired to hunt in Texas. But laser sights are prohibited because officials say it does not give the animal the benefit of "fair chase."

Kuempel said allowing visually impaired hunters to use laser sights with the assistance of a sighted person "would enhance the possibility of a much more humane harvest."

Fort Worth hunter Stanley McGowen lost his eyesight 16 years ago in a plane crash. Since then he has continued to hunt. He said he has killed several white tail deer and feral hogs.

"I hold the rifle up to my shoulder and my hunting partner stands beside me and directs the hunting scope to the target and says 'left, right, up and down' and tells me to squeeze when we are on target," McGowen said. "Using a laser would assure a more humane shot."

Kuempel said the laser focuses a small red mark directly on the target, "giving a comfort level that the hunting team will be able to make a good clean harvest."

Texas would be following the lead of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin in allowing visually impaired hunters special privileges.

Harvey Kronberg, with the Kron Report, which covers Texas politics, said Kuempel is "well regarded" and predicts the bill will breeze through the next congressional session, which starts Jan. 9.

"Very few legislators want to be on the record either voting against the disabled or voting against hunting in Texas," Kronberg said.

Under current law the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department does not discriminate against people with disabilities who wish to hunt. People who are visually impaired can take a hunter education class and there is nothing legally stopping them from going out on their own.

"Taking an eye exam is not part of the legal requirement to receive a hunting license," said Tom Harvey, department spokesman.

Two organizations that are involved with protecting rights of the blind, the National Federation for the Blind and Austin Lighthouse, said the use of laser sights is not a high priority.

But Jerry Mayfield, the director of Austin Lighthouse said, "If a legally blind person would like to go hunting, and there is a technical way that makes it possible for him to do it, then I am all for it."

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