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Foster Parents Sue DHS over Right to Bear Arms

The Short of It

Foster parents Stephen and Krista Pursley are suing the state Department of Human Services in Oklahoma City federal court over an agency rule that says they can't possess firearms for self defense.

The Lowdown

According to the lawsuit filed by the Pursleys and the Second Amendment Foundation, foster and adoptive parents are prohibited by the DHS policy from possessing or carrying firearms in their vehicles or while their foster/adopted children are present.

The Pursleys, who have fostered 34 children in Oklahoma, claim the policy violates their right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment and the equal protection provisions in the 14th Amendment.

"This mandate for foster parents is not just restrictive, it's ridiculous," the Second Amendment Foundation's founder Alan M. Gottlieb told The Oklahoman. "We're asking for an injunction against this requirement because it puts foster families at serious risk while denying parents their constitutional rights."

Since 2014, DHS has required all prospective foster and adoptive parents to sign a Weapons Safety Agreement form, in which they agree to keep weapons in their homes in locked storage; to not carry weapons if a child is present unless required to do so by an employer; and to keep any weapons in their car unloaded, disabled, and stored in a locked container.

Stephen Pursley has had a concealed carry permit for 15 years, yet according to the lawsuit, the Weapons Safety Agreement has no exception for foster parents who have a concealed carry permit.

"It is completely unconstitutional and unfair 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," said Illinois attorney David G. Sigale, who is representing the Pursleys.

The Upshot

On the other side of the debate, DHS communications director Sheree Powell, says the agency policy doesn't prohibit gun ownership by foster parents.

"It does, however, require reasonable safety measures to protect the children in DHS care, many of whom come from traumatic and tragic circumstances," she said. "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. Any revisions to agency policy, however, will always make the safety of children its first and foremost priority."

Do you think foster parents rights are being violated here?

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