Florida shooting raises questions on foster parents owning guns

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The latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida has caused Arizona’s Department of Child Safety (DCS) to question if and how foster parents are allowed to store guns in their homes.

A 19-year-old gunman, Nikolas Cruz, has pled guilty to killing 17 people after he opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Wednesday. Cruz’s host parents knew he had guns, but they say they felt safe knowing they were under lock and key.

The situation has raised questions about Arizona’s own foster care rules and regulations. DCS wanted to impose specific rules on how foster parents were allowed to store firearms in their homes. DCS currently requires foster homes to store guns unloaded, trigger-locked and secured in a tamper-proof space. Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, sponsored a bill that passed Wednesday night giving foster parents the same rights as biological parents when it comes to owning and storing firearms.

Mary Jo Pitzl, a reporter for the Arizona Republic who is currently covering this topic, explains the bill asks why we don’t trust foster parents to do the responsible thing when it comes to gun safety? The bill argues that foster parents have the right to the 2nd Amendment just like anyone else.

The requirements DCS currently has in place are one size fits all, Pitzl says. Not all foster parents will host kids who are even of age to access a gun. With that in mind, Pitzl wonders if legislators are supposed to tailor make the rules depending on every possible situation.

There is a lot required of foster parents that aren’t required of biological parents. Cleaning supplies have to be locked up, as well as all kinds of medications. It’s because foster parents often don’t know what they’re getting when a child walks through their doors. They don’t know what kind of behavioral issues they may have. However, the legislature says DCS has no right to take away the 2nd Amendment from foster parents.

Pitzl says most of the Republicans voted for this bill, while the Democrats rejected it. Guns aren’t being taken from anyone, she points out, it’s just a matter on how they are stored.

TED SIMONS: GOOD EVENING. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON." I'M TED SIMONS, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS REPORT THAT THE 19-YEAR-OLD IN CUSTODY FOR YESTERDAY'S FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTINGS HAS CONFESSED TO THE KILLINGS. NIKOLAS CRUZ, A FORMER STUDENT AT THE SCHOOL, MADE HIS INITIAL COURT APPEARANCE TODAY, HE WAS CHARGED WITH 17 COUNTS OF PREMEDITATED MURDER. HE IS BEING HELD WITHOUT BOND. IN ARIZONA, GOVERNOR DOUG DUCEY ORDERED FLAGS AT HALF STAFF UNTIL MONDAY TO, QUOTE, "HONOR AND REMEMBER" THE VICTIMS. THE STATE "LEGISLATURE" HAS MOVED TO "EASE" FIREARM RESTRICTIONS ON FOSTER-CARE PARENTS. PROPONENTS SAY IT GIVES EQUAL 2ND-AMENDMENT RIGHTS TO FOSTER PARENTS. CRITICS ARGUE THAT IT INCREASES THE RISK TO FOSTER KIDS. MARY JO PITZL OF THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC IS COVERING THE STORY. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE AND WHAT EXACTLY DOES THIS BILL CALL FOR?

MARY JO PITZL: WHAT THIS BILL CALLS FOR IS, IT WAS INTRODUCED BY KEVIN PAYNE A REPUBLICAN FROM PEORIA, A FRESHMAN. THE BILL SAYS LOOK DCS HAS ALL THESE REGS AND RULES FOR FOSTER HOMES ONE PERTAINS TO FIREARMS. A, IT DOESN'T FIT WITH OUR LAWS -- THAT'S SORT OF ANOTHER POINT, AND B, WHY DON'T WE TRUST FOSTER PARENTS TO DO THE RESPONSIBLE THING? THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO SECOND AMENDMENT PRIVILEDGES AS ANYONE ELSE. NOT PRIVILEDGES BUT SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS. WE NEED TO LIFT THE REQUIREMENTS. ON ITS INITIAL AIRING THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE PACKED THE ROOM IN THEIR DEMAND COMMON SENSE SAYING WHY ARE WE MAKING IT EASIER FOR GUNS TO BE AROUND KIDS IN FOSTER CARE?

TED SIMONS: WHY ARE THEY… OTHER THAN EQUAL SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS, IS THAT BASICALLY IS IT THE SECOND AMENDMENT THE END ALL OF THIS?

MARY JO PITZL: YEAH, I MEAN THAT’S THE YES, AND THERE’S A COUPLE OF OTHER POINTS. SOME LAWMAKERS SAY LOOK THE REQUIREMENTS ARE ONE-SIZE FITS ALL. NOT ALL FOSTER PARENTS HAVE KIDS COMING INTO THE HOME ARE EVEN OF AN AGE TO ACCESS A GUN. WHAT IF YOU HAD AN INFANT THAT YOU’RE TAKING IN. I SUPPOSE, COULD YOU TAILOR MAKE THE REGULATION THEN FOR DIFFERENT AGE GROUPS. WHAT DCS REQUIRES RIGHT NOW IS YOU CAN HAVE FIREARMS, THEY DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT, YOU CAN HAVE BOWS AND ARROWS, CROSSBOWS, KNIVES, BUT THEY HAVE RULES FOR HOW THEY SHOULD BE STORED. WHEN IT COMES TO FIREARMS, IT SAYS THE WEAPON HAS GOT TO BE UNLOADED, IT’S GOT TO HAVE A TRIGGER LOCK, AND YOU GOT TO STORE IT IN A PLACE THAT IS TAMPER PROOF, YOU CAN’T JUST LOCK IT IN THE HALL CLOSET ALONG WITH OTHER THINGS. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SEPARATE STORAGE AREA FOR THAT.

TED SIMONS: KEEP IT UNLOCKED, GOT A TRIGGER LOCK, MAKE SURE IT’S IN A LOCKED CONTAINER, A SAFE CONTAINER AND THESE SORT OF THINGS. THESE REGULATIONS WERE PUT INTO EFFECT FOR A REASON, WERE THEY NOT?

MARY JO PITZL: YES, THEY WERE. THEY WERE THERE TO KEEP FOSTER KIDS SAFE. THERE IS AN ARGUMENT, THESE ARE NOT THE FOSTER PARENT'S CHILDREN. THESE ARE THE STATE’S CHILDREN, THEY ARE IN STATE CUSTODY. FOSTER HOME IS MEANT TO BE A TEMPORARY SETTING. YOU DON'T KNOW -- WE HEAR THIS A LOT FROM FOSTER PARENTS, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING OFTEN TIMES WHEN A FOSTER CHILD IS BROUGHT TO YOUR HOME. YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT KIND OF BEHAVIORAL ISSUES THEY MIGHT HAVE HAD. THIS WILL OBVIOUSLY PERTAIN TO SOMEBODY OLDER THAN AN INFANT WHEN IT COMES TO FIREARMS. BUT THAT'S WHY THEY ARE THERE. ALONG WITH OTHER RAGS LIKE, CLEANING SUPPLIES, IF YOU ARE A FOSTER PARENT, THEY HAVE TO BE LOCKED UP. YOU’RE MEDICINES, THERE ARE CERTAIN ELEMENTS TO A MEDICAL KIT. THAT HAS TO ALSO WITH PRESCRIPTIONS, YOU HAVE TO HAVE THOSE THINGS LOCKED UP. WE DON'T REQUIRE THAT OF BIOLOGICAL PARENTS.

TED SIMONS: SO THERE ARE DIFFERENCES OTHER THAN GUNS AND FIREARMS AND WEAPONRY. THERE IS ALSO AN UNDERCURRENT HERE REGARDING AN AGENCY HAVING RULES AND REGULATIONS ON FIREARMS. YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO DO THAT, ARE YOU?

MARY JO PITZL: CORRECT. THE SPONSER KEVIN PAYNE POINTED OUT THAT THERE IS ANOTHER PART OF THE STATE LAW THAT SAYS BASICALLY AN AGENCY CAN'T GO MAKE RULES ON ITS OWN ABOUT FIREARMS. SOMEHOW THAT GOT OVERLOOKED WHEN THEY WERE LIKE RECREATING THE CHILD WELFARE AGENCY IN 2013 AND 2014. THESE REGS ARE IN THERE. THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILD SAFETY IS TECHNICALLY NEUTRAL ON THIS BILL. THEY DO MAKE THE POINT THAT IF THIS BILL PASSES, YOU TAKE AWAY ANY ABILITY FOR THE AGENCY TO ALTER THE RULES. YOU GET RID OF IT AS IT PERTAINS TO FIREARMS.

TED SIMONS: YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT THESE KIDS ARE TECHNICALLY STILL IN STATE CUSTODY. IS THERE NOT A LIABILITY FACTOR HERE?

MARY JO PITZL: THERE IS ALWAYS A LIABILITY WHEN THERE IS CHILDREN THAT ARE IN THE DCS SYSTEM. IF YOU INCREASE THE RISK THAT A CHILD COULD GET A HOLD OF A GUN, AND, A FOSTER CHILD, CAUSE HARM OR A FOSTER CHILD COULD BE HARMED BY ACCESS TO THAT, I THINK THAT WOULD ADD TO THE LIABILITY CALCULATION.

TED SIMONS: IS THE DEBATE BASICALLY, FROM WHAT YOU’VE SEEN SO FAR, GUN RIGHTS VERSUS PROTECTING KIDS? IS THAT HOW THE SIDES ARE LINING UP HERE? IT PASSED COMMITTEE, CORRECT?

MARY JO PITZL: IT DID. IT HAD MOST OF THE REPUBLICANS ON THE PANLE VOTE FOR IT. IT HAD THE DEMOCRATS AND REPRESENTATIVE MARIA SIMS, WHO’S FROM PARADISE VALLEY, A REPUBLICAN, VOTED NO. SUGGESTED THERE COULD BE TWEAKS MADE TO IT TO GET HER SUPPORT DOWN THE ROAD.

TED SIMONS: SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? FULL HOUSE? WHAT DO YOU THINK?

MARY JO PITZL: IT WILL PASS. OR PERHAPS IT WILL DISAPPEAR. I THINK THAT WE ARE IN A PERIOD WHERE THE CHILD WELFARE AGENCY HAS SEEN A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF KIDS THAT ARE COMING INTO CARE, THERE IS A REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF KIDS THAT STAY A LONG TIME. MORE ADOPTIONS. I DON’T KNOW IF THEY WANT TO BRING THAT ATTENTION OR THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR DUCEY WANTS TO BRING ATTENTION TO PERHAPS ALLOWING GUNS TO HAPPEN. I MEAN GUNS ARE IN THESE FOSTER HOMES. IT’S JUST A QUESTION OF HOW THEY’RE STORED.

TED SIMONS: AND LAST QUESTION HERE. THE OPTICS OF ALL OF THIS. HOW DOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS MAKING ITS WAY THROUGH THE LEGISLATURE WHILE THE REST OF THE WORLD IS LOOKING AT FLORIDA AND SHAKING ITS HEAD? HOW DOES THAT ALL PAN OUT?

MARY JO PITZL: THAT WAS NOT LOST ON SOME OF THE PEOPLE THAT WERE AT THE HEARING, THAT STAYED UNTIL MIDEVENING, LATE EVENING FOR THIS BILL. OBVIOUSLY IT DOES NOT LOOK GOOD WHENEVER A TRAGIC SHOOTING HAPPENS AND YOU GOT A STATE AGENCY OR A STATE POLICYMAKING BODY TALKING ABOUT LOOSENING GUN CONTROLS.

TED SIMONS: ALRIGHT GOOD TO HAVE YOUR HEAR. GOOD INFORMATION. THANKS FOR COMING ON.

MARY JO PITZL: THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

TED SIMONS: AND COMING UP LATER ON ARIZONA HORIZON, THE LINK BETWEEN CHILDHOOD TRAUMA AND LIFE LONG HEALTH PROBLEMS.

Mary Jo Pitzl: Arizona Republic

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