There are a lot of kids having a rough time in life and need safe places to stay. That’s why we have foster families. The idea is that rather than stacking kids up like cordwood in orphanages, we can give them something that resembles a home life. It may be temporary, but it’s closer to an actual family.
Now, there are plenty of foster family horror stories out there, but that’s because the good ones don’t make the news. We don’t hear about the foster families who provide love, support and help shape productive members of society.
But in Michigan, there’s an odd requirement that’s being challenged. It seems that foster families aren’t allowed to have any unsecured firearms in the home. None. For any reason.
Recently, the case made a key step forward.
A lawsuit filed in a Michigan federal court last year challenging a state policy mandating foster parents store guns locked and unloaded will proceed, according to documents filed last week. U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney sided with William and Jill Johnson, residents of Ontonagon — a village bordering Lake Superior on Michigan’s upper peninsula — who claim the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services threatened to revoke their foster parent license if they didn’t comply.
“The policy of the MDHHS, by implementing requirements and restrictions that are actually functional bans on the bearing of firearms for self-defense, both in and out of the home, completely prohibits foster and adoptive parents, and those who would be foster or adoptive parents, from the possession and bearing of readily-available firearms for the purpose of self-defense,” Maloney wrote in a 28-page opinion filed last week. “This violates Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.”
The Johnsons became foster parents at the request of the state after taking custody of their grandson last year. When the couple arrived to pick up the boy from MDHHS custody, however, caseworkers searched William Johnson, demanding to see his concealed pistol license and a list of serial numbers for all of his firearms. When Johnson, a 100-percent disabled veteran, questioned the legality of the policy, agency officials told him “if you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights” or MDHHS will “take his grandson and place him in a foster home.”
Two weeks later, a Gogebic County Court judge said during a custody hearing of the gun policy, “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home.”
You may or may not recall this case. We covered it here.
This is horrendous, and it should never happen. This is especially true when it’s family taking in a blood relative, especially as close of a relationship as grandparent and grandchild.
I get that the state tends to have an interest in protecting the child. Hell, by the time the foster system gets involved, the kids are usually fairly screwed up anyway, so of course, they want what’s best for the child. But this isn’t it. It’s not even close to what’s best for the child and, on some level, I have to think that they know that.
These are constitutional rights, for crying out loud. Someone should never be forced to choose between their rights and their blood. Any government that sets up such a choice shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves a free society, yet the judge explicitly stated it as such.
This lawsuit going forward is a good thing for all Michigan residents. Heaven forbid you end up where the Johnsons are.