Lawsuit: Illinois Denies 2nd Amendment Rights of Foster Parents

Kenneth Shults, pictured here with two of his three children, is a firearms safety instructor and says Illinois makes it nearly impossible to maintain your 2nd Amendment rights and be a foster parent.

According to a story from Fox News, gun laws in Illinois unfairly target people who want to act as foster parents, and one couple has filed a federal suit over the matter.

Kenneth and Colleen Shults claim in their suit that they are being forced to surrender their Second Amendment rights in order to be allowed to permanently welcome a foster child into their home, the story says.

The couple is already the parents of three children, and is fighting rules that severely restrict parents’ gun rights with the aim of safeguarding foster children. They filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, which accuses the director of the state Dept. of Children and Family Services of deprivation of civil rights under the color of law.

"Our family has always owned and used firearms," said Kenneth Shults, who is a firearms safety instructor and machine shop owner. "No foster parent should have to forfeit their constitutional rights in order to be a foster parent."

The story says the rules are strict and remove any possibility of a firearm being used in self- or home-defense.

Prospective foster parents in the state must either certify that there are no firearms in their home or complete a form called the Foster Family Firearms Arrangement. The document requires a list of all guns and ammunition in the home and locations where they are stored. They must also certify the guns have trigger locks and are stored unloaded, separate from ammo and in locked containers accessible only with a key kept off the premises or in the owner’s possession.

The rules are enforced by involuntary home inspections, the lawsuit says.

The Washington-based Second Amendment Foundation has joined the suit as a plaintiff along with the Illinois State Rifle Association.

"When seconds count, having your gun unloaded, locked up, and ammunition stored somewhere else makes you a likely victim of a violent crime," said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the SAF, in the story. "This lawsuit is important not just for foster families in Illinois, but all across the nation. What we are challenging is the denial of the fundamental right to defend yourself and your family."

The couple claims they have a legitimate need for protection afforded by an accessible, loaded gun. Colleen works as a nurse at the Illinois Department of Corrections’ Danville Correctional Center, where she says she was warned in March by her employer that prisoners were seeking home addresses of prison staff, including nurses. The story says the letter she and others received stated that they should take unspecified precautions.

The story says a number of suits challenging gun laws have been filed against the state by the SAF in recent years including the highly publicized McDonald v. City of Chicago.

Illinois isn't the only state with such rules about foster parents and gun ownership. We reported in 2015 that a Nevada couple lost their foster kids when they were forced to brandish a firearm in defense of their home.