KC couple challenges rules against Missouri foster parents keeping loaded guns

Kansas City foster parents are suing the state of Missouri, saying the government is restricting their right to possess or carry loaded firearms for self-defense.

James R. Attaway and Julie M. Attaway allege in the lawsuit that the firearms policy of the Missouri Department of Social Services violates their rights under the Missouri and U.S. constitutions.

Foster parents in Missouri are not prohibited from possessing firearms as long as they are legally allowed to do so otherwise.

But they are subject to a number of restrictions including:

Firearms and ammunition in the home must be stored separately, and firearms must be kept in locked areas inaccessible to children. They must also be kept in a locked area in any vehicle transporting a foster child, and any firearms must be possessed in accordance with all federal, state and municipal laws.

Those restrictions prevent them from possessing or carrying “loaded functional firearms,” they argue in the lawsuit.

“It leaves them with no actual ability to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said David Sigale, an Illinois lawyer representing the couple.

Sigale said similar lawsuits are pending in Michigan and Illinois.

The Attaways are joined in the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, by the nonprofit Second Amendment Foundation, which they belong to.

“Members of SAF who are foster parents in Missouri would possess and carry loaded and functional concealed handguns in public for self-defense, but refrain from doing so because they fear their foster children being taken away from them by the state, and/or being prohibited from being foster parents in the future,” the lawsuit states.

The Attaways currently have one foster child in their home, and plan to have more in the future. They also have two birth children.

Both are legally allowed to possess firearms under Missouri law, and James Attaway also has a concealed carry permit.

“The Attaways are fearful of losing their foster son if they complain or do not comply with the policies,” according to the suit.

In the suit, they are asking a judge to grant an injunction preventing the Department of Social Services from continuing to enforce the regulations.

They also want the regulations to be declared null and void.

A spokeswoman said Wednesday that the Department of Social Services does not comment on pending litigation.

Lori Ross, a veteran Missouri foster parent and CEO of the nonprofit, FosterAdopt Connect, said that being a foster parent is a privilege and not a right, and that the safety of children is the priority.

“There are lots of things that are required of foster parents that people might disagree with,” Ross said. “For example many people believe in the idea of physical discipline, but they have to forgo using it in order to be foster parents.”

Tony Rizzo covers federal and state courts for The Kansas City Star, where he has been a reporter for more than 30 years. He is a Kansas City native and veteran of the U.S. Army.