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Foster Parents Challenge Oklahoma Gun Rules

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) - A married pair of foster parents filed a federal complaint challenging the constitutionality of Oklahoma's restrictions on letting foster and adoptive parents carry guns.

Stephen and Krista Pursley, of Moore, and the Second Amendment Foundation sued the Oklahoma Department of Human Services on Jan. 7.

The Pursleys say they "have been and are foster parents to 34 children" in Oklahoma, and plan to continue doing so. "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," they say in the complaint.

"As the plaintiffs only seek to be treated the same as other law-abiding Oklahoma residents, the Second and Fourteenth Amendments render a ban such as that challenged in this action, impermissible."

The Pursleys say that since 2014 the Department of Human Services has required prospective foster and adoptive parents to agree not to carry weapons on their bodies while a child is present and to store unloaded weapons in a locked container when in a car.

"The Pursleys would possess and carry loaded and functional firearms for self-defense and defense of family, but refrain from doing so because they fear their foster and adoptive children being taken away from them by the state, and/or being prohibited from being foster and/or adoptive parents in the future, all due to the OKDHS policy complained-of herein," the complaint states.

The Pursleys say their caseworker told them that noncompliance would bring the "immediate" revocation of their foster/adoptive home status, "with any placed children removed from their home."

Department of Human Services communications director Sheree Powell said the agency has not been served yet but has reviewed the complaint.

"Our agency policy does not prohibit gun ownership by foster parents," Powell said in a statement. "It does, however, require reasonable safety measures to protect the children in DHS care, many of whom come from traumatic and tragic circumstances."

Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan M. Gottlieb called Oklahoma's rule ridiculous.

"Why should a foster parent be stripped of his or her right to self-defense, or their ability to defend their foster child, simply to appease some bureaucrat's anti-gun philosophy?" Gottlieb said in a statement on Jan. 8. "We're in a new era, when people not only must be concerned with violent crime, but also acts of urban terrorism. How would it look for Oklahoma if foster children came to some harm because OKDHS regulations disarmed their foster parents?"

The Pursleys are represented by David Sigale in Glen Ellen, Ill., and Jason Reese with Meyer Leonard in Oklahoma City.

Sigale said in a statement that the rule is "completely unconstitutional, and unfair" and must be struck down.

"If one is in compliance with federal law and the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, the DHS is not allowed to discriminate against those who foster and adopt through the state programs," Sigale said.

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