St. Louis Record

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Couple claiming state's firearms rules for foster parents violate their rights may have a point, professor says


By Carrie Bradon | Jan 28, 2019

A Kansas City couple has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Missouri Department of Social Services' policies regarding the possession of loaded firearms by foster parents violate their constitutional rights. 

Foster parents are allowed to own firearms under the department's policies, but they must take several measures to ensure the protection of their foster children, a Jan 17 posting on said. Foster parents are required to keep the guns out of reach of children and store ammunition separately from the weapons to prevent easy access, the posting said.

Royce Barondes, a law professor at the University of Missouri, recently spoke with the St. Louis Record abourt the lawsuit and the restrictions that are placed on foster families who own firearms.

"The Missouri rule provides in part, 'No firearms shall be kept ... on any person providing care or supervision to foster children,' subject to certain exceptions for persons who must carry weapons as part of their employment," Barondes said. "This would purport to prevent ordinary public firearms possession for self-defense, and defense of supervised foster children, while foster parents are merely supervising foster children in the course of daily activities."

While the law may be interpreted as the government trying to protect foster children, Barondes said it does not outline other regulations for household dangers other than firearms.

"Possession of a firearm for self-defense is a fundamental right under Missouri law," Barondes said. "Governmental restrictions on it must be narrowly tailored to promote a compelling governmental interest. One supposes the putative justification is safety. The narrow tailoring requirement inhibits restrictions implemented for reasons other than those proffered. That these regulations, among other things, single out firearms, but allow other hazards such as pools and spas, raises the question whether the rules, in fact, reflect detached hostility to exercise of a constitutionally protected right."

The Kansas City couple alleges that the requirements prevent them from having a loaded and operational firearm available to them.

"The state has not yet revealed in the litigation the information it will cobble together to attempt to justify such a conclusion," Barondes said.

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Missouri Department of Social Services University of Missouri Law School

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