Firearms and Foster Homes: Arizona Law Cancels Gun Regs for Caregivers

The Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill last week that will prevent the state’s child protection agency from requiring foster parents to lock up firearms.

Lawmakers say the Department of Child Safety’s (DCS) current regulations run contrary to a state law that forbids state agencies from setting their own rules related to guns, according to the Arizona Republic.

Arizona isn’t the first state to encounter conflict between foster home licensing and gun rights. Last year, Michigan relative caregiver William Johnson filed a lawsuit opposing the state’s prohibition on concealed carry weapons for foster parents.

That case might have implications for child welfare agencies that seek to apply different rules on guns than state laws decree, according to New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

Supporters of House Bill 2535 include the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, which argued on its website that “current regulations under the Arizona Department of Child Safety have been forcing foster parents to choose between their Second Amendment rights or their children.”

The requirements set forth by the Department of Child Safety do not prohibit foster parents from owning a gun or keeping it in their home. Rather, DCS requires that ammunition be kept in a locked container separate from the gun, that the gun itself be stored unloaded, and that it bear some sort of trigger lock.

Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth (R), who supports the bill, told the Republic that the current rules are one-size-fits-all.

“If I have a newborn that I’m fostering, how is that newborn going to get the gun?” he asked. The responsibility should rest with the foster parent, not DCS, to take reasonable steps on gun storage, he said.

As of March 2017, there were 16,044 children in foster care in Arizona; 1,445 of those children were younger than 1 year old.

DCS’ current regulations are very similar to the National Rifle Association’s own guidelines for home safety, according to opinion columnist E.J. Montini for the Arizona Republic. The agency also requires that foster parents lock up medications and sharp objects while foster children are in their care.

A 2005 state-by-state research project on gun rules for foster homes, conducted by the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, found that only Pennsylvania and Mississippi had no specific regulations related to firearms. Most states either had requirements on storage, or more general requirements on keeping weapons out of reach.

Only two states, Colorado and Connecticut, were described as “discouraging the presence of firearms in the home.”

John Kelly also contributed to this story.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story cited coverage in the Arizona Daily Star, but the coverage actually appeared in the Arizona Republic. It also stated that the requirements set forth by the Department of Child Safety prohibit foster parents from owning a gun but should have said “do not prohibit …”

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