By Hanna Plotnik and Hana Dement
A bill that would relax gun-safety requirements in homes where foster youth live is advancing in the Arizona House of Representatives.
The House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee voted 5-4 Wednesday night to pass House Bill 2535, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria.
DCS currently requires foster-care parents to house their firearms, unloaded with a trigger lock, in an unbreakable, locked cabinet, while the ammunition must be locked-up in an unbreakable container away from the firearm.
“Foster parents are just like any other parents in the state of Arizona,” Payne said, “They should have Second Amendment Rights just like anyone else.”
Keely Hopkins, a liaison for the National Rifle Association, testified that the current DCS regulations renders firearms useless in a self-defense situation, and that H.B. 2535 will protect the right for self-defense for foster parents.
“Foster parents are like any other parents,” Hopkins said, “They simply want to care for their children, including exercising their Second Amendment rights to protect their families.”
One of the groups against H.B. 2535 is Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, whose members filled up the first three rows of seats during the meeting.
Kathleen Noble, a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke against the bill and demonstrated that it only takes three seconds to open a small gun safe.
A few other members of this organization testified against this bill including Sarah Gotschall.
“The fact that we have not heard of any unintentional shootings in years in foster homes is probably because of the wisdom of DCS,” Gotschall said.
According to Bahney Dedolph, director of programs at The Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, foster families are also required to lock up medication and cleaning supplies in order to protect children, so they do not have access to things that could be dangerous.
“Nationally, children are killed by guns somewhere over 7,000 children a year,” Dedolph said, “Smart gun storage reduces child deaths and risks to all children and all family members.”
Committee Chairman Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, said that these rules are “one-size-fits-all,” and are not circumstantial.
“If I have a newborn that I am fostering, how is that newborn going to get the gun?” Farnsworth asked, “The responsibility should rest with the foster parent, not DCS, to take reasonable steps on gun storage.”