Two foster parents are suing the state Department of Human Services in Oklahoma City federal court over an agency rule they claim is unconstitutional because it prohibits foster and adoptive parents from legally possessing firearms for self-defense.
The married couple, Stephen and Krista Pursley, of Moore, state in the lawsuit that they “are prohibited by the OKDHS policy … from possessing or carrying firearms in their vehicles or while their foster/adopted children are present.”
The Pursleys, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, filed the lawsuit against DHS Director Ed Lake. The Pursleys belong to the foundation.
The Pursleys claim the rule violates the right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment and the equal protection provisions in the 14th Amendment. They also state in the suit that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The Plaintiffs only seek to be treated the same as other law-abiding Oklahoma residents,” the lawsuit states.
“This mandate for foster parents is not just restrictive, it’s ridiculous,” said Alan M. Gottlieb, the foundation’s founder and executive vice president. “Why should a foster parent be stripped of his or her right to self-defense, or … ability to defend their foster child simply to appease some bureaucrat’s anti-gun philosophy? … How would it look for Oklahoma if foster children came to some harm because (DHS) regulations disarmed their foster parents?
“We’re asking for an injunction against this requirement because it puts foster families at serious risk while denying parents their constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit states that since early 2014, DHS has distributed a “Weapons Safety Agreement” form to prospective foster and adoptive parents that requires them to agree to keep their weapons in their homes in locked storage when not in use, to not carry their weapons if a child is present unless they are required by their employer to do so, and to keep any weapons in an automobile unloaded, disabled and stored in a locked container.
“Our agency policy does not prohibit gun ownership by foster parents,” said Sheree Powell, the DHS communications director. “It does, however, require reasonable safety measures to protect the children in DHS care, many of whom come from traumatic and tragic circumstances.
“Agency leadership has, in fact, been diligently working in recent weeks to review and, if necessary, revise its foster care weapons policy in order to address the interests of foster parents who are appropriately permitted to possess firearms. Any revisions to agency policy, however, will always make the safety of children its first and foremost priority.”
Powell said Friday that DHS has reviewed the lawsuit but has not been served.
The Pursleys have been and are foster parents to 34 children in Oklahoma. “They have adopted one of the foster children and are in the process of adopting a second foster child, plus having one other foster infant and a natural child in their home,” the lawsuit notes.
Stephen Pursley is a graphic designer and Krista Pursley is an administrative assistant for the Moore school district.
Stephen Pursley has had a concealed carry permit for 15 years. The lawsuit states the couple “would possess and carry loaded and functional firearms for self-defense and defense of family, but refrain from doing so because they (are afraid of) their foster and adoptive children being taken away.”
They allege the weapons agreement has no exceptions for foster parents with a concealed carry permit.
“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 Illinois attorney David G. Sigale, who is representing the parents and foundation.
“DHS’s policy that severely restricts the firearm possession of these good people must be struck down,” Sigale said.
The Second Amendment Foundation is a Washington state non-profit membership organization with more than 650,000 members and supporters nationwide. The foundation promotes a better understanding about the Constitutional heritage to privately own and possess firearms, according to the organization’s mission statement.
The foundation’s website states it performs many educational and legal action programs designed to better inform the public about the gun control debate. The website shows numerous lawsuits filed nationwide over the years regarding gun rights.
The foundation also launched a media campaign last week against President Barack Obama’s recent executive action on gun control. The foundation was founded in 1974.
The Second Amendment reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
(c)2016 The Oklahoman
Visit The Oklahoman at www.newsok.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.