Okie foster parents sue DHS over gun policy

Two foster parents sued the Oklahoma Department of Human Services because they say certain department rules for adopting kids violate their right to own guns for self-defense.

According to the lawsuit, couples wanting to adopt are required to sign a Weapons Safety Agreement, which states, in part, that they are prohibited “from possessing or carrying firearms in their vehicles or while their foster/adopted children are present.”

Plaintiffs in the case, Stephen and Krista Pursley, who live in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, have fostered nearly three dozen children, have adopted one child out of foster care and are in the process of adopting a second foster child. Stephen, a graphic designer, has possessed a valid concealed carry permit for more than 15 years, but because of the policy Stephen’s carry permit nil while with the children.

The couple, who is being represented through the Second Amendment Foundation, believes the weapons policy, which has no exception for concealed carry permit holders, violates both the United States and Oklahoma constitutions by prohibiting them from legally possessing a firearm for self-defense.

According to the lawsuit, “The Plaintiffs only seek to be treated the same as other law-abiding Oklahoma residents.”

Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation called the mandate not just restrictive, but “ridiculous.” Gottlieb questioned why foster parents should be stripped of their rights to not only defend and protect themselves, but the children for who they are caring.

“How would it look for Oklahoma if foster children came to some harm because [DHS] regulations disarmed their foster parents?” Gottlieb told The Oklahoman.

Gottlieb said the couple is asking for an injunction against the policy because they believe it puts foster families at serious risk.

“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 David G. Sigale, an Illinois attorney who is representing the couple and the Second Amendment Foundation.

However, Sheree Powell, communications director for DHS, points out their policy does not prohibit foster parents from owning firearms.

“It does, however, require reasonable safety measures to protect the children in DHS care, many of whom come from traumatic and tragic circumstances,” Powell said.

Additionally, Powell confirmed the department has been reviewing the weapons policy and, if deemed necessary, it will be revised to address foster parents with concealed carry permits, noting that the safety of the children is the foremost priority.

Powell added that as of Friday, although DHS has reviewed the lawsuit, the department has not yet been served.