Violent young children (temporarily) taken away from "highly volatile [home] environment" partly because the parents had unsecured guns in the home

|The Volokh Conspiracy |


An interesting decision Monday from the Ohio Court of Appeals, in In re K.T., in which three young children—two of whom were apparently fairly violent—were taken away from "highly volatile [home] environment" partly because the parents had unsecured guns in the home. Here's a long excerpt:

The juvenile court … found [the] children, H.W.T., E.T., and K.T.[,] … dependent, and granted appellee, Lake County Department of Job and Family Services ("LCDJFS") protective supervision. [The children were 11, 7, and 3 at the time. -EV] … [W]e affirm….

Mother and Michael Taylor, Biological Father …, are married and reside with the minor children in Eastlake, Lake County, Ohio….

The evidence and testimony presented reveal a highly volatile environment in which the minor children are at risk. Father walks around the house with a handgun in his waistband. Mother and Father argue in front of the minor children. The arguments have escalated to include an instance where Father punched cabinetry and pulled a gun on case worker Ritt while H.W.T. was nearby. Also, the fighting between H.W.T. and E.T. and the fighting with Mother cannot be controlled by the parents as the police have been called to the family home to intervene.

The record further reveals that H.W.T. and E.T. have significant behavioral problems. They are treated by psychiatrist Dr. McGee and social worker Ms. Kelly. They are on medication. They are violent toward each other. They are violent toward Mother. They are violent toward others.

The minor children have access to guns. As stated, Father walks around the house with a handgun in his waistband. Mother and Father do not believe in gun safes or trigger locks. Mother told Dr. McGee that she had no interest in securing the weapons because she wants them to be ready at hand. The guns are stored in Mother and Father's bedroom, which is only secured by an outside latch on French doors. The minor children know how to get into the bedroom, i.e., merely pull up a chair and open the latch. The minor children have entered Mother's and Father's bedroom at night without their knowledge.

E.T. threatened to take Father's gun to school and kill another student. H.W.T. threatened to kill himself by jumping out a window. H.W.T. also threatened to kill Mother in her sleep. As a result of the threats, Mother is concerned for her safety and admitted to keeping a gun underneath her pillow at night. This environment reveals that all members of the household are in danger.

By no means is this court questioning one's Second Amendment right to own a gun. However, the facts presented in this case reveal irresponsible gun ownership. Mother and Father, through their behavior, created a dangerous home environment because they do not believe in gun safes or trigger locks even though there are three young children in the home. Not only were the children disturbed, they also had access to the guns which were not stored or secured in a safe manner.

We stress that children have a right to be safe and secure in their home. … The safety and welfare of the child is of paramount concern. … Clearly, the home environment in this case was not safe and secure.

Based upon the foregoing, and all of the evidence presented at the adjudicatory hearing, as previously discussed, we find the juvenile court did not err in finding clear and convincing evidence that the minor children are dependent ….

The children were at one point taken away from the parents, but were then returned three months later, though the department retains protective supervision, which means department employees can visit the home and school to check on the children. For evidence that Judge Colleen Mary O'Toole, who wrote the opinion, does indeed normally take a broad view of Second Amendments rights, see her dissenting opinion two months ago in "In Re: Application of Douglas Wells". Here's an excerpt:

The majority holds the trial court did not err in partially denying appellant's request from the firearms disability imposed by his conviction for possessing criminal tools. For the following reasons, I disagree.

At the outset, this writer notes the great importance of the right of the people to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and extended to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. The facts at issue in this case, including the statutory scenario, the trial court's judgment, and the majority's affirmation, have improperly resulted in an outcome where a non-violent, non-drug related, low-level felony [which led to a conviction in 1990] prevents appellant from obtaining his concealed handgun license.