The state of Michigan discovered a clever way to circumvent Second Amendment rights – use children as leverage against armed citizens. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) told fifty-four-year-old retired Marine veteran, William Johnson, that if he didn’t forfeit his Second Amendment right to a self-defense firearm, they would take his grandson from him and place him in a foster home. And the Gogebic County Judge backed them up.
MDHHS asked Mr. Johnson to foster the boy, then searched him, demanded to see his concealed pistol license – after finding him unarmed – and informed him that he would have to comply with MDHHS firearms regulations and submit the serial numbers for all firearms in the house to a registry. According to a lawsuit filed by the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Mr. Johnson asked why they needed his gun serial numbers and was told: “If you want to care for your grandson you will have to give up some of your constitutional rights.”
Imagine Mr. Johnson’s surprise when, two weeks later, he heard that demand reinforced in court. “We know we are violating numerous constitutional rights here, but if you do not comply, we will remove the boy from your home,” the judge told him. To hear these words coming from the mouth of a judge – a public servant oath-bound to uphold the law – must have been quite a shock to the disabled veteran.
The lawsuit goes on to explain the constitutional provisions:
The Second Amendment provides:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a Free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
U.S. Const. amend. II.
The Second Amendment “is fully applicable against the States.”
McDonald v. City of Chicago , 561 U.S. 3025, 130 S. Ct. 3020, 3026 (2010).
Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment provides, in relevant part:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
U.S. Const. amend.XIV.
According to MDHHS Foster Care Rules:
(3) Firearms are subject to the following conditions: (a) Stored in a locked metal or solid wood gun safe or (b) Triggerlocked and stored without ammunition in a locked area. (c) Ammunition shall be stored in a separate locked location. (d) A handgun shall be registered. Documentation of the registration of the handgun shall be available for review.
Clearly, the regulations in place for those who would be foster or adoptive parents are unconstitutional. The entire point of the Second Amendment is to protect each citizen’s right to bear arms for self-defense. Any firearm locked away unloaded with ammunition stored separately is somewhat less useful in a self-defense situation than a baseball bat. Beyond even that – the caseworker demanded the registration of all of William Johnson’s firearms – rifles and shotguns included. Unconstitutional as it is, the state law only requires handguns be registered.
In a statement released earlier in the week, the SAF explained why they are pursuing the case:
“The statements from the caseworker and judge are simply outrageous,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “This amounts to coercion, with a child as their bartering chip. I cannot recall ever hearing anything so offensive and egregious, and we’ve handled cases like this in the past. Blatantly telling someone they must give up their civil rights in order to care for their own grandchild is simply beyond the pale.”
Mr. Gottlieb spoke well – though outrageous, offensive, and egregious might even be too mild for this case. That a judge can confess in court to violating anyone’s constitutional rights – never mind a combat veteran’s – and still be allowed to practice law afterward is ridiculous.
There is no reason for the court to remove the boy from Mr. Johnson’s home – though a strong case could be made for the removal of both the judge and the MDHHS employees from public service.