Opening your doors to a child in need as a foster parent is a special calling. It takes a great deal of courage and compassion to take in a child whose life has had a troubled start. Caring, honest foster parents should be treated with the utmost respect, yet in some places in America their basic constitutional rights are being violated by overzealous rules and government bureaucrats.
This debate is taking center stage in Michigan where a ban on firearms in foster homes by the state Department of Health and Human Services is rightfully being challenged in court. The defendants, Bill and Jill Johnson, desperately wanted to become foster parents to their grandson, but were put in a difficult position by the state when asked to choose between their Second Amendment rights and their grandson’s ability to live with them. The state of Michigan bars foster parents from carrying concealed weapons, which amounts to a de facto concealed-carry permit ban on foster parents. They are forcing well meaning, law-abiding citizens to choose between their constitutional right to self defense, and caring for a child in need. This is a choice no American should have to make.
Let’s be clear: there are already many bureaucratic hoops for people to jump through to become a foster parent, including proving their home is a safe and healthy environment for children. These regulations cover everything from background checks, to having smoke detectors in the home, to ensuring firearms are secured and out of reach of any children.
But states should not unfairly penalize people who are volunteering to take children into their home and care for them. Statistics show that concealed-carry permit holders are some of the most law-abiding citizens in the country. They file paperwork, pass exams, demonstrate knowledge of firearms on a shooting range for an instructor, and in many cases have already passed a background check, all in compliance with the laws of their state. Concealed-carry permit holders statistically commit fewer crimes, and yet they are being discriminated against for exercising their right to bear arms, which is guaranteed in the Constitution.
There are efforts in some states to change these absurd laws, and ensure that honest and trustworthy people can become foster parents regardless of whether they choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights. For instance, the Texas state legislature explicitly made it legal for foster parents with concealed-carry permits to possess firearms in their home. In 2015, Nevada, which forbids foster parents from having firearms at all, made an exception for law enforcement officers and concealed-carry permit holders.
Government overreach can often have unintended consequences, and in Michigan these counterproductive rules could prevent more good-hearted, law-abiding people from becoming foster parents. If anything, responsible concealed-carry permit holders actually make a safer environment for children, by being able to respond to a threat at any time. With over 400,000 children in need of foster homes in this country, our state and local governments should be doing everything possible to promote, and not prevent, foster care, and on behalf of the more than 250,000 members of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association we hope the Johnson family is successful in its lawsuit.
More broadly, though, we hope Michigan and other states that have these onerous, misguided regulations on the books will take a long, hard look at the facts and offer support to the law-abiding people of this country.
Tim Schmidt is president and founder of the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.