Foster Parents Sue State of Missouri Over Handgun Rules

January 21, 2019 Updated: January 21, 2019

A foster parent couple is suing the state of Missouri, claiming that fostering regulations violate their right to carry loaded firearms for self-defense.

The Kansas City couple claimed they could lose their foster child even if they do not violate laws on firearms because foster regulations place extra conditions that they say are at odds with their Second Amendment rights.

James and Julie Attaway are currently fostering a child alongside their own biological children.

The couple filed the lawsuit together with the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri’s Western Division.

Under Missouri law, they are legally allowed to possess firearms. James Attaway has a concealed carry permit. However, according to the Kansas City Star, the lawsuit states that foster parents who would otherwise carry and possess loaded concealed handguns “refrain from doing so because they fear their foster children being taken away from them by the state, and/or being prohibited from being foster parents in the future. ”

“The Attaways are fearful of losing their foster son if they complain or do not comply with the policies,” said the lawsuit, filed on Jan. 16.

The Missouri Department of Social Services rules for foster parents states that firearms and ammunition in the home must be stored separately, and firearms must be kept in locked areas inaccessible to children.

They must also be kept in a locked area in any vehicle transporting a foster child.

“Prohibiting all foster parents from carrying concealed firearms or storing ammunition with firearms in the same locked safe strips foster parents of the ability to defend themselves and their children, foster and natural, from threats both inside and outside the home,” James Attaway told the Washington Free Beacon, 

Familiar Ground

“We were not allowed to continue with the licensing process until we agreed to abide by the department’s firearm policy while foster children were placed in our care. We ultimately agreed and finished our licensing process, and while having a foster child in our home, we have had to abide by these unconstitutional policies for fear of losing our foster care license,” Attaway continued.

“As parents of biological children and foster children, one of our top priorities is to provide a safe, loving place for them to grow and develop,” he said.

The couple was joined in the lawsuit by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), which has been involved in similar legal challenges in other states in recent years.

“This is familiar ground for us,” Alan M. Gottlieb, founder of SAF, said in a statement. “We have successfully challenged similar regulations in other states when we find them because there is a significant question about the constitutionality of such prohibitions.”

“We believe this is an unconstitutional provision in Missouri’s Code of State Regulations,” he added. “It is important for the court to take action to protect the rights of Missouri residents who open their homes and hearts to foster children for whom they wish to provide a stable environment.”

Lori Ross, a veteran Missouri foster parent and CEO of the nonprofit, FosterAdopt Connect, told Fox News in a statement that being a foster parent is a privilege and not a right. The safety of children must be a priority, she said.

“There are lots of things that are required of foster parents that people might disagree with,” Ross said. “For example, many people believe in the idea of physical discipline, but they have to forgo using it in order to be foster parents.”

Rules of Department of Social Services (Missouri) Division 35—Children’s Division Chapter 60—Licensing of Foster Family Homes

(4) Weapons Requirements.

(A) Any and all firearms and ammunition shall be stored so as to be inaccessible to children. Foster parents shall store ammunition separately from any weapons. Firearms and ammunition shall be stored in locked areas or cabinets with keys secured so as to be inaccessible to children.

(B) No firearms shall be kept in any vehicle transporting (unless weapons are inaccessible to the foster child—i.e., in a locked glove box or other locked container or in the trunk of the vehicle) or on any person providing care or supervision to foster children. (An exception will be made for any person transporting a foster child who must carry a weapon as part of their job responsibilities— i.e., law enforcement officers.) No firearms possessed in violation of a state or federal law or a local government ordinance shall be present at any time in the home, on any household member, or in any vehicle in which the children are riding.

(C) Weapons storage shall be made available for external viewing by Children’s Division staff in order to assure weapons are inaccessible to children.

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