Bill Prevents Gun Questions for Parents Looking to Adopt
Adoption agencies would be barred from making prospective parents reveal whether they have guns or ammunition at home under a measure that sailed through a House panel Thursday with the backing of the National Rifle Association.
Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, said he and his wife are dealing with a “mountain” of paperwork as they attempt to adopt a child through the Children’s Home Society of Florida, which assists with adoptions in the Orlando area.
But the couple were offended when asked about their weapons cache.
“I would hate to think that the fact that I’m a law-abiding gun owner would work against me in the adoption process,” Horner said. “I’m not saying that that has happened. But the intent of this bill is that it never does.”
Horner’s legislation (CS/HB 315) would bar forms demanding weapons information, but would require those seeking to adopt to acknowledge they have received a copy of the state law requiring that anyone owing a loaded firearm keep it safely stored away from minors.
The measure cleared the Health and Family Services Policy Council on a 15-0 vote. The only significant challenge came from Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton, who said she didn’t agree with Horner’s view about the motives behind the agency’s questions.
“I do object to the assumption that the question was asked for nefarious reasons,” Skidmore said. “That the question was asked not to make sure that children would be safe in an environment they’d never been before and where people had not had children before, but rather done in a way to document people and register weapons.”
Horner said that the Children’s Home Society, which contracts with the Florida Department of Children and Families to provide adoption services, was the only licensed adoption agency he knew that included a form asking prospective parents to describe their weapons, where they’re kept and what kind of ammunition is in their house.
According to council records, on November 11 – five days after Horner filed his bill – the Children’s Home Society issued a memo instructing staff to no longer make or keep any list of firearms owners.
State law currently prohibits a state agency from maintaining a list of firearms owners.
“This is not taking any tool away from these adoption agencies, but what it will do is prevent this unfortunate type of activity in the future,” said Horner, who said his own weapons include a shotgun and a military assault rifle.
Marion Hammer, representing the NRA and Affiliated Sportsmen of Florida, endorsed the new prohibition.
“This bill will stop adoption agencies and investigators from profiling prospective adoptive parents and discriminating against families who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights to lawfully possess firearms,” Hammer said.
Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate (SB 530) still awaiting its first hearing. The legislation emerges amid a record year for concealed weapons permitting in Florida.
Through Dec. 31, 677,815 concealed weapons permits had been issued in Florida, fueled by a flood of new requests that Hammer attributes to the state’s 2008 “guns-at-work” legislation.
The measure, opposed by gun organizations and backed by business groups, allows only concealed weapons permit-holders – whose names are exempt from public records under state law -- to now keep weapons in their vehicles at work.
The election of President Obama and a Democratic-led Congress also have fueled fears among gun-owners that tougher sanctions against weapons could be coming, although none appear to have yet developed.
Instead, Congress last year voted to repeal gun-control measures in Washington, D.C., and also extended concealed weapons-permitting to national parks.