A blind man who has concealed weapons permits in North Dakota and Utah says he's not a danger to society, even though he can't see the gun he's shooting.
Carey McWilliams, 33, says he has followed all the required rules, and he wants Minnesota to join other states that have granted him a concealed weapons permit. He says he was rejected first by a Minnesota county sheriff and then by a judge in that state.
"I'm trying to prove a point that people without sight still can carry (a gun) because brains are more important than eyesight in securing public safety," McWilliams said. "The shooter at Virginia Tech had really good eyesight and he killed 32 people."
Bill Bergquist, the Clay County, Minn., sheriff, said he felt bad about denying a permit for McWilliams.
"He's a super nice guy," Bergquist said. "But the application states that a person should be able to show proficiency on the firing range and a proficiency of the weapons. That's the issue.
"Sometimes I have to ask myself, what is right in this case? I felt when I denied it, he could have his day in court."
McWilliams said he completed the required class and shooting exercise by Paul Horvick, a National Rifle Association instructor. Horvick said he believes gun rights are private and would not comment on anyone he has taught or tested. Documents on Minnesota weapons hearings are sealed.
McWilliams said he uses special low-range, hollow-point bullets that are effective only in tight quarters.
"If I use a gun it will be at point-blank range, period," he said. "A sighted shooter is probably more dangerous because they can see something scary and pull their gun in haste."
Under Minnesota law, an applicant must be issued a license for a gun or a concealed weapon if he or she completes the class and shooting exercise and passes a background check - unless "there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public if authorized to carry a pistol under permit."
McWilliams believes Minnesota officials have violated his constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
"It's nobody's business that I'm blind," he said.
McWilliams lives in a Fargo trailer park with his wife, Victoria. One of their neighbors, Jon Storley, accompanied McWilliams during his appeal to the Minnesota district court.
"He's not a nut, he's not a weirdo, he's not a freak," said Storley, a cab driver and rock musician. "I'm not a lawyer, but in this case I believe the judge was legislating from the bench."
Storley also said he doesn't blame Bergquist and Kirk for their decisions, calling the case "a kettle of worms."
Oddly enough, the permit McWilliams obtained from the state of Utah is recognized in 30 other states - including Minnesota. McWilliams said he had to complete a "firearms familiarity course" before receiving the Utah license.
"Basically, they just passed around a couple of guns," McWilliams said.
McWilliams, who got his North Dakota permit in 2001, testified during the 2005 North Dakota legislative session against a proposal to drop the written part of the concealed weapons test. He told lawmakers it would allow people who are ignorant about firearm regulations to get permits. The test was eliminated.
The Legislature also decided to keep individual information about weapons permits confidential, said Liz Brocker, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
"All I can tell you is the total number of permits that have been issued," she said. The state has issued 8,030 permits, she said.
McWilliams lost his eyesight when he was 10 years old, after a series of headaches and gradual deterioration. It was a mystery to doctors.
He said he was a victim of domestic violence growing up and was stalked by gang members. "I've had situations where I would have felt threatened if I hadn't been carrying," he said.
McWilliams has written two books, including an autobiography published earlier this year that talks about his experiences in sky diving, scuba diving and deep sea fishing. He was in two segments of Michael Moore's antigun movie, "Bowling for Columbine," including a scene showing him cradling an AK-47 assault rifle.
Much of his autobiography is about his weapons training and testing.
"My permits together allow me, with reciprocity, to carry my gun in 30 states, one of which could be yours," he writes. "But never fear, with my extensive experience in firearms, I have take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of others."