Families who agree to take in troubled Youth Corrections children have long been banned from having a firearm in their house.
But with the Legislature's passage of Sen. Michael Waddoups' so-called "U." gun bill, that apparently won't be the case anymore.
Waddoups' SB48 prohibits any state entity from restricting the possession of firearms via an administrative rule or policy, unless authorized in statute.
That worries Ken Stettler, director of the Department of Human Services Licensing, which licenses child foster care services through a couple of state agencies — the Division of Child and Family Services and Youth Corrections.
The agencies have adopted rules governing firearms as part of the determination of where children are placed and as ongoing restrictions after placement.
For foster-care homes under the purview of DCFS, the rule says foster parents have to make sure the guns are inaccessible to children at all times. Firearms and ammunition stored together have to be locked up in vaults or cases — and not a glass-fronted display case.
It is even more restrictive for those who agree to take in Youth Corrections children — no guns at all.
Stettler said the rules came about as a result of a Utah shooting in the mid-1980s. A husband and wife who took in a Youth Corrections child were killed with their own firearm, Stettler said.
"It was a huge and tragic deal at the time," he said, and agencies began to look for ways to minimize the risk of it happening again.
"We know that in the foster homes that we license there are going to be children who are in state custody who are are there because they are not capable of making rational choices," he said. "Some are suicidal, some are impulsive or have been involved in criminal or delinquent behavior. Certainly we don't want to jeopardize the health and safety of the child or the foster family in any way."
Stettler said he believes with the passage of Waddoups' bill, the Department of Human Services will have to repeal those rules.
"We will not be able to withhold licenses based on firearms," he said.
But Waddoups said perhaps the issue needs to be revisited regarding its impact on foster care licensing rules.
"It is a debate that needs to happen," he said. "The Legislature needs to understand there is a problem and decide how we are going to address it."
Proposed legislation to give agencies the ability to impose restrictions on firearms didn't pass.
Waddoups did say well-meaning foster care parents should exercise prudence and caution if they decide to take a Youth Corrections child.
"They are not just normal foster kids — these are kids who have been taken into custody for problems. They may not be criminals per se, but they are headed down that road as juveniles. . . . If you have a teenage kid with a history of beating someone or using a weapon, how much access do you want to give them to a weapon in your own home?"