A lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday alleges the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) violated the gun rights of foster parents.
Caseworkers from MDHHS and a county judge told William Johnson of Ontonagon, Mich., that he had to choose between his Second Amendment rights and fostering his grandson, according to a complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. The 54-year-old Johnson is a retired, disabled Marine with a Michigan Concealed Pistol License. He and his wife were asked by the state of Michigan to foster their grandson. According to Johnson's suit, however, the issues began as soon as he arrived at MDHHS to pick up the child.
Johnson said he was searched for a firearm and, although he was not carrying a gun, officials demanded to see his concealed carry license. He was then told he would need to give MDHHS the serial numbers of all of his firearms, including rifles and shotguns, and register them with the agency. After questioning why he would have to register his firearms in order to foster his grandson, Johnson said he was told by one caseworker, "if you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights." When he objected, he was told there would not be a "power struggle" and MDHHS "would just take his grandson and place him in a foster home" if he didn't comply with their requests.
Two weeks later, during a hearing on placement of the child, Johnson said a Gogebic County Court judge similarly told him, "if you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights."
Michigan requires that anyone who wants to be a foster parent must register his handguns with the state as well as keep the guns unloaded and locked in a safe separate from the ammunition. Foster parents in states like Nevada and Oklahoma have challenged similar laws in recent years after being denied foster children over their legally owned firearms. The case against MDHHS also features plaintiffs Brian and Naomi Mason, who said the gun regulations keep them from becoming foster parents.