Repeal False Gun Free School Zone Act
by Jeff Knox
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced a bill (HR-2613) to repeal the federal Gun Free School Zone Act. While many in the general public and the gun prohibition community will balk and ask questions like, "What does anyone need with a gun at a school," knowledgeable rights supporters are wondering why it has taken so long.
The Gun Free School Zone Act, or GFSZA for short, was originally passed by Congress back in 1990, but in 1995 the Supreme Court voided the law, ruling it (quite correctly) to be an unconstitutional overreach of federal power. Congress quickly passed a revised version of the act which included the stipulation that the firearm had, "moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce." With this addition Congress supposedly provided constitutional authority for their actions and, while the Supreme Court has not revisited the issue, several Appeals Courts have upheld convictions under the new language.
The GFSZA is one of those feel-good laws that so often pass in the wake of a tragedy – the Stockton, California schoolyard shooting, in this case – which do nothing to address the problem, but which leave a wake of unintended consequences. The GFSZA did nothing to prevent the rash of school shootings that plagued the nation in the 1990s.
Does anyone honestly believe that the Columbine murderers were deterred in the slightest by the law against bringing guns within 1000 feet of a school? Could the police have somehow been magically aware of the illegal presence of the firearms and been able to interdict the weapons before the murderers had the opportunity to start their killing spree? Unlikely. But a gun owner pulled over for a traffic violation who is carrying a gun in the car in an otherwise lawful manner could be charged with a federal felony (5 years and $5,000) if he happens to be within the mythical Gun Free School Zone.
The federal law prohibits anyone from being in possession of a firearm within 1000 feet of any accredited school or daycare center. One thousand feet is almost 3 city blocks, and the zone begins at the edge of school property, not the door of the school. In metropolitan areas these zones often overlap to the extent that lawful travel while armed is completely impossible. While the law does make exceptions for residents within the zone and anyone licensed by the state to possess firearms, it makes no exception for states that do not require a license to possess a gun.
What's more, the GFSZA does not recognize licenses issued in other states. Though I have legally carried a gun for over 25 years and am licensed to lawfully do so in 34 states, I do not have a permit issued by my home state of Arizona. Even though Arizona recognizes both my Utah and my Virginia permits and the state requires no permit at all for lawful carry, I could be committing a federal offence virtually every time I leave my home with a loaded firearm because there are schools along almost every route out of my neighborhood.
The GFSZA is simply bad law. It violates the limits on federal authority in the Constitution. It infringes on citizens' Second Amendment rights. And it doesn't do anything to reduce crime. It's ridiculous that this bad law hasn't been repealed long before now. Unfortunately the odds are not very good that it will be repealed in this congress. While Ron Paul has long been one of the staunchest supporters of the Second Amendment in Congress, his legislative proposals rarely go anywhere because the proposals tend to be aggressive, and because Paul's not in with the "in" crowd. He often deviates from the party line when he feels that Republicans are straying from the constitutional straight and narrow. That principled commitment has also put Paul at odds with the NRA on issues such as the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which he felt was unconstitutional and voted against.
I fear Dr. Paul's bill to repeal the GFSZA is running head-on into both of those problems. Politicians are terrified of any suggestion that they're not "for the children," and the Republicans and NRA are not inclined to work on something that makes Paul look good after he's not supported them.
The only thing that can give this bill legs is a groundswell of grassroots support demanding that Representatives sign on as cosponsors and work for passage. That means that, as usual, it’s up to you and me. Tell Congress you want them to obey the Constitution, support HR-2613, and repeal the Gun Free School Zone Act.
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