The Right To Own A Gun Doesn’t Trump The Safety Of A Foster Child

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162522888Nevada couple Valerie and Brian Wilson want to become foster parents but they don’t want to give up their loaded guns in order to do so. They have applied to foster a child, but have been denied under a state law that prevents individuals who carry loaded guns from serving as foster parents. A bill proposing changes to the law that would allow gun owners like the Wilsons to become foster parents without having to give up their firearms is currently in the works in Nevada, but some have spoken out against the proposed bill, claiming the safely of children in the foster care system shouldn’t be put at risk.

According to Yahoo Parenting, current Nevada law prevents people who have loaded guns in their homes from being foster parents. The proposed law change would allow foster parents to both have loaded firearms in the home that are locked away and lawfully carry a loaded firearm in the presence of a foster child.

According to a 2005 compilation of individual state policies regarding foster homes and firearms, the vast majority of states have restrictions on firearms in foster homes that require them to be locked away.

Nevada’s concerns about child safety are valid– ABC News reported that according to the CDC, in 2010, 98 American children died from accidental shootings. In accidental shootings of children in the years 2003-2006, in 86% of the cases, the shooter was also a child.

Nevada Division of Child and Family Services spokesperson Chrystal Main spoke to Yahoo Parenting and made an excellent point about how the current law is in place to protect children in the foster care system:

Often they have experienced significant trauma and are at much higher rate than the rest of population to experience mental health and behavioral concerns. These kids have high rates of depression and impulse-control disorders and other mood disorders which would make them highly reactive to situations in which a gun may be present.

Because so many foster children deal with challenges that could make them more reactive to guns being in the home, it seems logical that Nevada would ask attentive foster parents to be willing to remove loaded guns from the house. While foster parents fill a parental role, unless or until a foster child is legally adopted it’s the role of the state to look out for the safety of kids in the foster care and the right of the state to refuse foster children to be in homes with loaded guns.  

Personally, I think the place for loaded guns is at a shooting range. No amount of talks about respecting firearms would ever make me comfortable to have a gun in a house with children– especially a loaded gun. There are risks to owning a gun with children around. If you are a parent who has a firearm permit, you can weigh these risks and decide to have a gun in the house with your children, because that’s your right as a parent. But foster parents, as amazing as they are,  and as much for they do for the children in their care, don’t automatically have the right to make the same decision regarding the children in their care.

There’s no question that the Wilson’s hearts are in the right place, the issue is whether their guns are, too. As of the last committee meeting the bill has not been acted on.

(image: Bytmonas/Getty Images)