The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) has filed a federal lawsuit against the head of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for a policy that functionally bans foster and adoptive parents from possessing or bearing readily-available firearms for self-defense.
The official policy requires foster and adoptive parents to keep firearms locked and stored separately from ammunition, which must also be stored in a locked container. The rule by itself prohibits foster parents from carrying loaded weapons of any kind, but according to the SAF suit, Michigan officials have been using the policy to further impinge upon the gun rights of foster and adoptive parents.
One of the plaintiffs, a disabled veteran named William Johnson, was told by his MDHHS caseworkers that he would have to give the agency the serial numbers of all of his firearms if he wanted to maintain custody of his grandson. When he questioned this, the caseworkers allegedly told him, “If you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights.”
The caseworkers then told Johnson and his wife that “there would not be a power struggle, that they would just take his grandson and place him in a foster home.” The MDHHS later said they had “big concerns” over Johnson exercising his Second Amendment rights and carrying a firearm.
“There is nothing in Johnson’s history that would warrant such concerns,” the suit notes.
Two weeks later, the lawsuit alleges, a Gogebic County Court judge told the Johnsons that if they wanted their grandson placed in their care, “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home.”
“The statements from the caseworker and judge are simply outrageous,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This amounts to coercion, with a child as their bartering chip. I cannot recall ever hearing anything so offensive and egregious, and we’ve handled cases like this in the past. Blatantly telling someone they must give up their civil rights in order to care for their own grandchild is simply beyond the pale.”
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The second set of plaintiffs, Brian and Naomi Mason, claim in the suit that they would become foster or adoptive parents “but have refrained from doing so, because they know that if they do they would be prohibited from possessing and bearing loaded and functional firearms for self-defense… at the risk of their foster children being taken away from them by the State.”
“This is a case we simply must pursue,” Gottlieb said. “State agencies and the people who work in those agencies simply cannot be allowed to disregard someone’s civil rights.”
The Second Amendment Foundation filed a similar lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) last year. The plaintiffs claimed that as part of their foster care recertification they were required by DHS employees to sign an agreement stating that they would keep their weapons locked up at all times.
The DHS claims that this form was not an official document and that its use was discontinued before the lawsuit was filed. As of May 2017, the DHS was working with gun owners who are foster parents to re-work the department’s firearm policies.