Adoption and Guns

Should an adoption agency be able to consider whether a household has firearms as part of a decision on whether to allow adoption?  The question has come to a head in Florida, where at least one agency is using forms that ask about firearms ownership as part of the adoption process. 

This one strikes a little close to home for me because I was adopted.  My adopted family did not have guns in the house while I was growing up, and I do not think that was a good thing.  Obviously it doesn't determine the outcome of a child's life, but it's made my own interest in firearms more difficult to pursue -- and I had more opportunities than most kids in a home without firearms would have, because I encountered firearms in a controlled and positive environment outside of the home.  Many others would have only negative experiences with guns in the absence of a family that can demonstrate positive gun ownership. 

So what are the pros and cons of considering gun ownership in the adoption process?  To start with, let's frame the question a little bit more.  Kids are not only adopted as newborns; some are adopted significantly older than that, even potentially as teenagers.  Some are adopted by strangers, others by family friends or relatives after the parents pass away.  There's a broad spectrum of adoptees to consider, and many of those who are no longer newborns are not exactly angels either.

So, on the pro side:
On the con side:
What it boils down to is simple.  There are people who can be trusted with firearms, there are people who can't be trusted with firearms, and people move between those groups in both directions.   Asking about gun ownership is not enough information (even if answered truthfully) to determine whether someone is a responsible gun owner, or whether a child is at particular risk for a bad outcome from being in a gun-owning home.  Asking the question by itself (regardless of how the answer is handled) creates some negative consequences.

And it's all unnecessary, because we already have a societal proxy for responsible gun ownership.  Quite simply, we treat felons (plus those convicted of domestic violence) as not being sufficiently responsible to own a gun; all other adults are considered responsible by default.  The adoption process almost certainly checks for a criminal record already.  Thus, we are already weeding out the "bad gun owners" earlier in the process, using a method which does not have privacy implications and does not impose a Constitutional right. 

Because felons are already excluded, asking about firearms specifically during the adoption process can only lead to negative results.  There is no positive benefit to asking about firearms in addition to checking for criminal background.

That should make the decision simple.

This entry was published Tue Nov 10 12:18:47 CST 2009 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2009-11-10 12:18:47.0. [Tweet]

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