Are The Rights of Michigan’s Foster Parents Being Violated?

March 27, 2018 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Pistol on Constitution and American flag
Despite the rights granted to us by the US Constitution, foster parents in Michigan can’t carry guns!

The issue of gun rights is a highly contested one right now. In the wake of the tragic Florida high school shooting, there has been a great deal of debate and controversy surrounding the issue of weapons ownership in the US. Here in Michigan, legislators have been under a lot of pressure to address the issues of mental health red flags and weapons restrictions.

In Michigan, a person can carry a gun with them, or on their person, as long as they’re legally allowed to have it, their reason for carrying it is legal, and they’re not hiding it. If a person carries a gun under their coat, in their pocket, in in some other way that hides the gun from view, this is called ‘concealed carry’, and it’s only allowed if you have a specific permit for it. So what does this have to do with foster parents? Everything!

Foster parents can not carry guns, despite the laws!

Despite the fact that gun ownership is protected by the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Michigan doesn’t allow foster parents to carry guns. Even if the gun is legally obtained, properly licensed, and carried in a legal manner, a person applying to be a foster parent in Michigan would be denied if they happen to carry their gun on their person.

Say what? Why on earth, when there are so many kids in foster care needing homes, would the state be so restrictive about people who are willing to step up and give a child a home? Ostensibly, the reason is because many children in foster care are troubled youth, and having a gun in the home can put them at risk. It does makes sense, when you look at it that way. But from the perspective of the foster parent, it makes little sense at all.

One couple is suing the state over the gun regulations for foster parents!

Which is why Bill Johnson and his wife Jill are suing the state of Michigan. Mr. Johnson is a gun owner, and has been since he received his first gun at age 9, as a gift from his grandfather. He went on to serve in the Marines, and has been a legal gun owner ever since. But when Johnson and his wife applied to be foster parents, in the hopes of keeping their grandson in the family, they were denied. Why? Because Johnson is a gun owner who keeps his weapon strapped to his side.

Spelled out in its handbook for foster and adoptive parents, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is clear about how guns must be stored in all foster homes. According to their policy, all guns must be “stored in a locked metal or solid wood gun case, or trigger-locked and stored without ammunition in a locked area.” The agency also requires that foster parents lock up all ammunition.

Are the rights of Michigan’s foster parents being violated?

So if you have a concealed carry permit, or you like to wear your gun on your hip, you’ve got no chance at being a foster parent. As Johnson explained in an interview with the New York Times, the agency told him that he would have to give up some constitutional rights here if he wants to keep his grandson. The Johnsons’ suit, filed in July in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, and has since drawn a great deal of attention!

Even the legislators  are responding. Senate Bill 527 proposes to allow foster parents to own firearms and keep them locked up, while House Bill 4955 would prohibit a foster agency from considering gun ownership when placing a child in foster care. However, the lawsuit is still pending, and we are very curious to see what the court decides is more important – the rights of foster parents, or the potential safety of foster kids. We will keep you updated!