TALLAHASSEE — A bill backed by the National Rifle Association that would prohibit adoption agencies from asking prospective parents if they have guns or ammunition in the home appears to be sailing through the Legislature.
The House and Senate are scheduled to vote today on the bill (SB 530, HB 315). Though sponsored primarily by Republicans, it earned Democratic support in committee tests, an unusual circumstance for an NRA-backed proposal. A spokesman said Gov. Charlie Crist strongly endorses the measure.
Said NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer: "It's a bill that is critically important because adoption agencies have been registering firearms and creating their own firearms regulations, which violate Florida statutes under two different provisions."
Though little formal opposition has surfaced, some have noted that parents often inquire if other parents have guns in their homes because they consider that an important safety issue for their children.
Under the measure, adoption agencies no longer could ask prospective parents if they keep firearms or ammunition in the home and gun ownership could not be considered a factor in determining a parent's suitability to adopt.
All applicants, however, would be required to acknowledge that they have received a written copy of the state law requiring the safe storage of firearms.
"The bill would direct adoption agencies, whether public or private, that they can no longer require information relating to lawful gun ownership," Rep. Mike Horner, R-Kissimmee, said during a brief debate Tuesday.
Most of the legislative discussion about the bill has centered on Senate and House amendments that also would have prohibited adoption suitability decisions based on an applicant's sexual orientation. Gay couples generally are barred from adopting children in Florida.
Sponsors of those amendments made impassioned statements on behalf of gay or lesbian prospective parents. In the end, though, they withdrew the proposals, knowing they were doomed.
The issue of adoptions by gun owners came to light after a few prospective parents complained last year that the Children's Home Society of Florida, the state's largest provider of services to children and families, was asking applicants to disclose information about weapons or ammunition they keep at home. Florida law bans state agencies or their agents from maintaining a registry of firearm owners.