The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has a strict policy when it comes to the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding foster parents that leave many with a precarious choice: go unarmed and keep the children or arm oneself and risk losing the children.
To explicate, under the state DHS’s “Weapons Safety Agreement,” foster and adoptive parents must agree to keep their weapons locked up when their not in use, to not carry their firearms if a child is present (there is an exemption if one is required to carry a gun for work, e.g. a police officer) and to keep any firearm in an automobile unloaded, disabled and stored in a locked container.
In other words, one must disarm when one’s foster children are present. One cannot carry a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense outside the home, with foster children.
According to the bureaucrats that run the DHS, the two-year-old policy isn’t an undue restriction on one’s right to keep and bear arms, but a sensible way to protect the children.
“Our agency policy does not prohibit gun ownership by foster parents,” Sheree Powell, the DHS communications director, told NewsOK. “It does, however, require reasonable safety measures to protect the children in DHS care, many of whom come from traumatic and tragic circumstances.”
Thankfully, the Second Amendment Foundation has filed a lawsuit challenging the policy on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional.
“This mandate for foster parents is not just restrictive, it’s ridiculous,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb in a press release. “Why should a foster parent be stripped of his or her right to self-defense, or their ability to defend their foster child, simply to appease some bureaucrat’s anti-gun philosophy?
“We’re in a new era, when people not only must be concerned with violent crime, but also acts of urban terrorism,” added Gottlieb. “How would it look for Oklahoma if foster children came to some harm because OKDHS regulations disarmed their foster parents? We’re asking for an injunction against this requirement because it puts foster families at serious risk while denying parents of their constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month and the DHS has reviewed it, noting that it would consider revising it if need be.
“Agency leadership has, in fact, been diligently working in recent weeks to review and, if necessary, revise its foster care weapons policy in order to address the interests of foster parents who are appropriately permitted to possess firearms,” said Powell. “Any revisions to agency policy, however, will always make the safety of children its first and foremost priority.”
Meanwhile, the SAF believes it has a pretty strong case against the DHS.
“It is completely unconstitutional, and unfair,” began attorney David G. Sigale, who is representing the plaintiffs, a married couple from Moore who’ve, over the years, housed 34 foster children, “that those persons who are providing a better life and environment for children, through the State’s DHS foster care and adoption process, would have to give up the fundamental rights of self-defense and defense of family in order to do so.
“If one is in compliance with federal law and the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, the DHS is not allowed to discriminate against those who foster and adopt through the State programs,” Sigale continued. “The DHS’s policy that severely restricts the firearm possession of these good people must be struck down.”
This case underscores how the government views firearms in the hands of the citizenry. Guns are a threat. Guns are exceedingly dangerous. And guns must be kept away from the children at all cost. This stance flies in the face of common sense, and the core values that this country was founded on. Parents — not the state — are responsible for the safety of their children. Part of that responsibility is having the tools necessary to protect them. Another part, which is as important, is teaching age-appropriate children how to safely handle and use firearms.
What DHS doesn’t understand is that public safety is maximized when the public is well-armed and knowledgeable about the safe and responsible use of firearms. Public safety is jeopardized when parents are disarmed and thereby precluded from teaching their children about the tools that could one day save their lives.