How Phoenix Became a Gun-Free Zone

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Thanks to the Gun-Free School Zones Act, reports gun control analyst Alan Korwin, "virtually all public travel with firearms is now a violation of law" in Phoenix, Cleveland, and other cities with similar school locations. The act, a slightly modified version of a statute that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1995 because it exceeded Congress' powers under the Commerce Clause, makes it a federal crime punishable by five years in prison to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. As Korwin's maps of Phoenix and Cleveland show, these zones can cover so much of a city's territory that they are impossible to avoid. Hence the law creates millions of accidental felons, otherwise law-abiding citizens who buy guns and bring them home, take their rifles on hunting trips, or drive with their guns to the shooting range. "Without realizing it, and by an unexpected route," Korwin writes in a press release, "anti-gun-rights advocates have achieved their primary goal–gun possession is effectively banned by federal law."

That's a bit of an exaggeration, since (as Korwin notes) the law does not cover guns on your own property. It also exempts people licensed to carry handguns. But the exemption for other private citizens traveling with guns applies only if the guns are unloaded and locked, or if the guns are unloaded, carried for hunting, and the owners have permission from school officials to traverse whatever school zones lie between them and their destinations. Hence Korwin is right that it's easy to unwittingly violate the law. (The law's knowledge requirement is satisfied if someone possesses a gun "at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.") He proposes an amendment to fix the problem by restricting the law to schools and their grounds.

The more fundamental problem with the law–that it's not authorized by the Constitution–cannot be so easily fixed. The Supreme Court has not yet considered whether the "interstate commerce" boilerplate that Congress added in 1996–which specifies, among other things, that a violator's weapon must be a gun that has "moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce"–renders the law constitutional.

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  1. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, since (as Korwin notes) the law does not cover guns on your own property. It also exempts people licensed to carry handguns. But the exemption for other private citizens traveling with guns applies only if the guns are unloaded and locked, or if the guns are unloaded, carried for hunting, and the owners have permission from school officials to traverse whatever school zones lie between them and their destinations.

    In some states, you need a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm on your person, but not in your vehicle.

    So, someone who chooses not to apply for a carry permit because they can simply keep a gun in the car per state law is a felon in the eyes of the feds.

    I look forward to joe try to rationalize this one.

  2. In some states, you need a concealed carry permit to carry a loaded firearm on your person, but no permit is required to keep one in your vehicle.

    So, someone who chooses not to apply for a carry permit because they can simply keep a gun in the car per state law is a felon in the eyes of the feds.

  3. wow, even the editors are double posting today!

  4. I wonder how many more laws can be built on the 1000 foot school zone structure?

  5. If we’d just give all the kids guns, this wouldn’t be a problem.

    [/Chuck Heston]

  6. Sweet! Then I’ve been a felon multiple times driving around Phx.

  7. I wonder how many more laws can be built on the 1000 foot school zone structure?

    Well, it’s been used to close down at least one bar in Houston based on its proximity (when measured at the very closest points on the properties) to a Catholic school, though the (then-named) Enron Stadium was naturally exempt, even though it served rather more beer and was closer…

  8. er, Enron Field, rather.

  9. Look for tobacco sales to be banned within 1000 feet of a school. This probably won’t come from the feds, but from one of the states.

    The next time huffing gets major play in hysterical (a.k.a., mainstream) media, look for gas stations to be banned.

    Wasn’t there a thread about fast food near schools a couple of weeks ago? Note that grocery stories have been known to sell Twinkies and Coke; off with their heads!

    Someday, schools will have to be built 5 miles out in the country, and millions of dollars in transportation will have to be spent to get the rugrats out there. But we’ll all be happy and secure in the knowledge that there won’t be anything a Puritan could object to within sight.

  10. Actually, we could easily fix this with a federal law requiring that all schools be built on 1,000-foot stilts, thereby assuring they are at least a safe 1,000 feet away from anything. (At least anything at ground level.)

    1,000-foot pits would work too.

  11. “Someday, schools will have to be built 5 miles out in the country, and millions of dollars in transportation will have to be spent to get the rugrats out there.”

    Someday?

  12. But all firearms can shoot further than 1000ft. Even the tiny .22 LR cartridge box warns that the projectile can travel over 5 times as far.

    It has often been noted that newsworthy mass-shootings only happen in “Gun Free Zones”. I prefer to call them “Victim Zones”.

  13. Couldn’t we just put the kiddies in a modern prison complex. Hell, we’re half way there anyway in a lot of places so what’s a 50′ high wall and a few hundred yards of concertina razor wire and viola, problem solved.

  14. I don’t see why the Supreme Court would need to address the jurisdictional element inserted in the 1996 law. This added “boilerplate” falls under Congress’ authority to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce In United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598, 612 (U.S. 2000), Rehnquist wrote that “such a jurisdictional element may establish that the enactment is in pursuance of Congress’ regulation of interstate commerce.”

    Furthermore, one must be careful to call a statute unconstitutional once the Supreme Court has affirmed the power of another branch. Whether you agree with the justices or not is irrelevant; the law is what it is, and not how you think it should be.

  15. So something is constitutional if the Supreme Court says it is?

    Man, if I was on the Supreme Court, I’d make all kinds of crazy rulings just to see if I could get guys like you to go along with it.

    Oh. Wait…

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