Understanding and Defining the Gun-Free School Zones Act

gun free school zone

Gun Free School Zone.

Since we have been getting an increased number of questions about this law in the recent weeks I am taking this opportunity to share some information that will hopefully clarify the finer points.

What Does The Act Say and Mean?

It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.

This Federal Law, which was signed into law in 1990 by President Bush, makes it illegal to have a firearm in a school zone. There are exceptions which will be covered below but first let us clarify some terms and definitions.

What is a School Zone?

As defined by federal law:

The term “school zone” means—

  • (A) in, or on the grounds of, a public, parochial or private school; or
  • (B) within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school.

So basically anything on school property or anything within 1000 feet of the school property.

What Kinds of Schools are Covered?

The law applies to all public, private, and parochial elementary schools and high schools. It does not apply to college campuses or Universities. The application to private schools is especially interesting.

What Are The Exceptions?

The prohibition of firearms in school zones does not apply if any of the following provisions are met. Note that I've added my own commentary in brackets [].

(i) on private property not part of school grounds; [like a home or other private property that is within 1000 feet of a school but isn't public property.]

(ii) if the individual possessing the firearm is licensed to do so by the State in which the school zone is located or a political subdivision of the State, and the law of the State or political subdivision requires that, before an individual obtains such a license, the law enforcement authorities of the State or political subdivision verify that the individual is qualified under law to receive the license; [So if you have a concealed carry permit, license, or another official document which permits you to possess the firearm assuming that there is some qualification standard in order to receive that permit/license.]

(iii) that is— [speaking of the firearm itself]

  • (I) not loaded; and
  • (II) in a locked container, or a locked firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle;

(iv) by an individual for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone; [like if the individual has the firearm in order to participate in the school's rifle club]

(v) by an individual in accordance with a contract entered into between a school in the school zone and the individual or an employer of the individual; [So if the school has hired or contracted an armed security guard for example.]

(vi) by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity; or

(vii) that is unloaded and is possessed by an individual while traversing school premises for the purpose of gaining access to public or private lands open to hunting, if the entry on school premises is authorized by school authorities.

So, even in states with “Constitutional Carry or Permitless Carry” one should still consider obtaining a permit as it allows one to have a firearm within 1000 feet of a school.

Please note that the permit only makes this law not apply to you when in the state where that permit was issued.

Having a Permit Doesn't Necessarily Mean You Can Have a Gun In a School

So if you are reading everything carefully you may feel that having a concealed carry permit/license in your state means that this law doesn't apply to you (true) and that you can, therefore, have your firearm in a school (probably not true). That is not the case.

Even though this federal law doesn't apply to those who have been issued a permit/license; that doesn't mean you don't have to follow any state laws. So if your state has any laws related to the carrying of or possession of a firearm in or near a school those laws still have to be followed regardless.

Get a permit. Be familiar with your state's laws.

What questions or comments do you have about your ability or right to carry a firearm in or near a school? Tell us in the comments below.

About Jacob Paulsen

Jacob S. Paulsen is the President of ConcealedCarry.com. ConcealedCarry.com provides in-person and online firearm training for American gun owners. The Company is currently teaching in-person classes in 25+ states with a team of more than 55 instructors. Jacob is a NRA certified instructor & Range Safety Officer, USCCA certified instructor and training counselor, Utah BCI instructor, Affiliate instructor for Next Level Training, Graduate and certified instructor for The Law of Self Defense, and a Glock and Sig Sauer Certified Armorer. He resides in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with his wife and children.


  1. Lonny on March 8, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    Just as a heads up, WA state law allows for the drop off and pick up of your child with your concealed firearm if you have a CPP (concealed pistol permit) RCW 9.41.280

    • Aaron on March 26, 2019 at 4:31 am

      Michigan is the same but the permit holder cannot get out of the vehicle with the firearm nor store it in their vehicle if they are not in it. As a teacher this really gets me because I would love to carry in school (illegal and I don’t think it’s changing anytime soon) but also because it can’t be stored in the vehicle I can’t have it on my way to or from work. If I go anywhere after school I have to go home to get my firearm, which is 20 mins in the opposite direction. I think it is crazy that 2A rights can be so denied to an area that holds most of this nations youth. Would keeping a secured firearm in a locked vehicle really be that big of a deal? I would do the “what they don’t know” thing but they have dogs sniff the lots and I’ve been in districts that have found hunting rifles in cars.

      • TJ Hillard on November 26, 2022 at 1:30 pm

        Ok Here is My Question I Live Across The Street from a School.Can I Still Carry my Gun On Me When I Leave My House.i Do have My LTC To Carry if Someone could Reach out To me With The Answer thank you

        • TJ Hillard on November 26, 2022 at 1:31 pm

          I’m From MA

    • G.S. Morris on June 9, 2022 at 9:35 pm

      So what of the Supremacy Clause? Does federal law only trump state law when pertaining to situations that are somehow “different”? (e.g., slavery, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc.)

      Or did Plugs Biden and his communist cronies inadvertently open the door for concealed carry by permit holders on school grounds from the state in which a school is located?

      If this is incorrect, pleas expain how?

  2. Buddy Daniels on March 9, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I have a question in regards to retired peace officers, who by law, are authorized to carry concealed in all 50 states. Are we authorized to carry in gun free school zones? I have been told that we are authorized to carry as if we were an off duty peace officer.

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:20 pm

      Buddy, the law is fairly specific and doesn’t have any sort of prevision for LEOSA. I would need to circle back with an attorney but I’m about 90% certain they would be equally restricted in school zones unless they have a permit from the State where the school is located.

      • Richard Gonyea on December 30, 2018 at 4:10 pm

        I am a retired Peace Officer I live in NY state I qualify every year with the sheriffs Dept I qualify with the pistol and revolver per Hr218 or LEOSA in your own state wear you got your permit you need to fallow the state laws and when you travel it’s up to you to know each States laws if it says Locked in a trunk of a car and ammo locked in the glove box then you have to follow those states law ,I don’t like it myself but I also don’t want any problems. Even if your traveling thru the state on the interstate and not making any stops you still need to do the laws of that state some states will even want a hotel reservation in Florida to show that you are just going thru the state biggest thing I feel you did the same job as the officer your talking to be polite let him know but not the first thing out of your mouth for he will know when you give him pistol permit ,ID, but if your in the wrong and your in a different state why take the chance

        • John on November 26, 2019 at 1:25 pm

          I am willing to take my chances… I live by the concept of that I would rather be tried by 12 than carried by 6!

          • Rick on May 30, 2022 at 9:19 am

            Can’t argue you logic. I wonder what a jury would decide is a parent went in an shot the perp at Uvalde while the police were deep in mediation. If I were on the jury, I don’t think I could vote to convict, no matter how they argued his violation of the law.

        • Bruce on November 7, 2020 at 10:12 am

          I don’t think HR218 covers you in your home state.

      • Mark Brooks on March 25, 2019 at 7:50 am

        What about the accidental shooting of a sub teacher 72 year old man in Alabama this past week CC guns discharged during class in his pocket ? 1 round fired ! #INSANTY
        What do you think Sir ? Thanks

        • Jacob Paulsen on March 25, 2019 at 3:41 pm

          I think that is bad. He should get a holster or better holster.

    • Eric Graham on March 9, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      by a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity. I think that means on the job. But they need change the law

      • Bill hawks on August 25, 2022 at 9:56 am

        Driving through a school zone officer pulls you over ask you if have any weapons and you are required to say yes and have a ccw permit,are you covered as you drove through the school zone and it’s within 1000 feet

    • longpurple on May 22, 2018 at 3:46 pm

      LEOSA seems to not cover an out-of-state officer, just as an off-duty IN-state officer, with only his badge and police ID is not granted an exception to GFSZA.
      The local officer may be armed on school grounds, only if he has a “qualified” state permit issued by the state where the school is located, in addition to his badge and ID.
      That’s a stupid redundancy, but remember, this law was written by the stupid people who think they are smarter than the rest of us, and have to protect us from ourselves.

    • Jim Bob on October 15, 2022 at 11:53 pm

      As a retired law enforcement officer why should you have any more right to carry than anyone else.

  3. wdcraftr on March 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    School buildings and property are Not Federal property, so where does the Fed. Govt. get the right to govern State and private property, or our children? I don;t see that in the Constitution, or in the intent of Federal Government jurisdiction.. I thought they were to uphold the constitution, provide a military, and our Congress make laws that do Not interfere with States rights, and laws..

    • Ken Cole on June 26, 2018 at 11:44 am

      I’m with you, Buddy… There is tampering with States Rights by the ‘tail wagging the dog’
      Feds, who live in a altered states world. All is a Pressure to REMOVE GUN RIGHTS from individuals & Replace unqualified agents of buracracies as responders…Which no workie.

    • John Reist on December 10, 2018 at 11:12 am

      wdcraftr I’m not a Lawyer! I’m Just someone who occasionally researches court cases to satisfy my own curiosity.I think the Constitutional basis for the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1990 has been the Commerce Clause in the US Constitution.Ironically it seems to me that the United States v. Lopez case was found in Lopez’s favor simply because the original wording of the law did not mention the wording of “Interstate Commerce”…so congress amended the law to include said phrase after the court case.

      The overreaching interpretation /application of the Commerce Clause is truly appalling-nothing drives that home to me more that reading the logic of the Supreme Courts Wickard v. Filburn decision.Basically you can be federally controlled under the Commerce Clause if you chose to NOT to engage in interstate commerce……Truly upside down logic….

    • Jesse on April 27, 2019 at 11:55 am

      The GFZ Act of 1994 applies to schools receiving federal funds. This is bullying.

    • deeperwell on March 26, 2024 at 9:03 pm

      I would suspect it has something to do with federal funding. They seem to think that if something receive ANY federal funding of ANY type or by ANY means, then they have the authority to impose federal regulations and rules oh it and people affected by it in ANY way (e.g. physical proximity).

    • Rick on April 16, 2024 at 10:23 am

      Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA)

      The Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA), exempts a “qualified retired law enforcement officer” carrying a LEOSA photographic identification, such as CBP LEOSA Identification or CBP retired/separated LEO credentials, along with an annual state firearms test certification, from most state and local laws prohibiting the carriage of concealed firearms.

  4. Jw on March 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    South Dakota has allowed teachers with ccw permits to carry in schools since 2013. Also the 1000 feet only applies if your actively committing a crime.

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:26 pm

      JW, the 1000 feet does not only apply if actively committing a crime per the federal law. I can’t speak to SD law but obviously, if SD has permitted individuals to be able to carry by any specific state law then this federal law doesn’t apply at all to those individuals. Where it does apply, the 1000 foot rule is specific and doesn’t have an exclusion based on the activity of the user.

      • Keith B on March 9, 2018 at 5:42 pm

        According to Iowa code, activity does seem to be addressed, speaking only to enhanced penalties if committing a crime with a weapon within 1000 feet of a school.

        724.4A Weapons free zones — enhanced penalties.
        1. As used in this section, “weapons free zone” means the area in or on, or within one
        thousand feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary
        school, or in or on the real property comprising a public park. A weapons free zone shall not
        include that portion of a public park designated as a hunting area under section 461A.42.
        2. Notwithstanding sections 902.9 and 903.1, a person who commits a public offense
        involving a firearm or offensive weapon, within a weapons free zone, in violation of this
        or any other chapter shall be subject to a fine of twice the maximum amount which may
        otherwise be imposed for the public offense.

        The heading of this specific code is “Weapons Fee Zone”, but the exact wording of the statute only seems to apply to activity. Like many laws, kind of vague. In my home state of Iowa, I’ve never worried about driving down the street in front of a school. I do have a permit to carry however. Unlike some other neighboring states, though, I believe we cannot even have a firearm in a closed case in the back of the vehicle if on school grounds (exclusion being law enforcement and permission from the school administrator).

        • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 7:15 pm

          But that has nothing to do with Federal code is my point. The federal law which I discuss in this article applies in all states unless you meet one of the exceptions. Having a permit is one of those exceptions. If you meet an exception then this federal law doesn’t apply and your local state law becomes the pertinent and only relevant law that matters. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Vern on March 9, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Just another stupid law that 1) is really unenforceable unless you are going to stop every
    person driving down the street that borders a school, 2) only impacts law abiding citizens who want to try and follow the law, and 3) will only know when the law is broken when a criminal starts shooting at a given school

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Well said!

  6. Bruce Major on March 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    What about the instance where I am carrying weapon on my person (I do have LTC permit) and am driving in my vehicle and am just passing through a school zone on my way to somewhere else. That is legal isn’t it?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      It is legal because you have the permit. The federal law doesn’t apply if you are “permitted by the state” and since you are permitted (or licensed in the case of Texas) this law is completely void or non-applicable to you in your home state.

      • Douglas on March 9, 2018 at 9:59 pm

        The constitution clearly states that the right shall NOT be infrenged . And that any law that contradicts the constitution is void and has no power. Also a right does NOT require a permit or licence. “KrisAnne Hall.com” is a great place to get a education on our constitutional rights.

        • Joel on June 26, 2018 at 5:51 am

          Agreed that the law is unconstitutional. That still doesn’t stop the state from prosecuting you for it, draining your bank account and stripping your rights as a convicted felon.

    • Larry on March 9, 2018 at 2:42 pm

      And driving through is great. My understanding of it and what I’ve always said is, you can’t stop and get gas at the 7-Eleven across the street from the school while armed. Unless you got that permit. And what was pointed out to me last night that I did not realize, permit has to be from the state that you’re actually in at the time. So my Colorado permit will not apply when I go get gas across street from a school in Texas and I’m carrying.

  7. RENE VIA JR. on March 9, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    I live in Florida, I have a CCP…am I allowed to carry on my church? …

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      Rene, in Florida there is no special provision for houses of worship. Its no different than any other private property. If it isn’t posted then you probably don’t need to worry about it. More info here: https://www.concealedcarry.com/law/concealed-carry-in-churches/

      • DA on August 10, 2018 at 7:32 pm

        when I got my CCW in FL, the instructor told us we were not breaking any laws entering a business (not Schools) with a no gun sign.

    • FL Bev on January 13, 2019 at 10:27 am

      I live in Florida, have my ccw, and carry in church every week. The pastor and associate pastor both know and are fine with it. In fact, I’m not the only one in my church to carry there. 😉

      As there are no laws regarding carrying in a house of worship in Florida, it’s really up to the individual church leadership and members. But, they can only ask you to leave if your gun is noticed. So, keep it concealed, as your supposed to, and it shouldn’t be an issue.

  8. Mike Miss You on March 9, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    The trip from my home to my shooting range is approximately 6 miles. While driving I pass by 2 elementary schools, 2 Middle schools, and 1 High School. So I guess I break the Law 10 times every time I drive to my range.

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 2:40 pm

      Get a Concealed Carry Permit and you won’t be breaking any laws.

  9. Robert R on March 9, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    All gun free zones need to go.

  10. Gordy on March 9, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    i think

    I think “Gun Free Zones” are directly responsible for all these school shootings. These nut jobs see that sign and it says,”Come here,no one will oppose you”
    The polititions that passed this law have blood on their hands.

    • tony on March 10, 2018 at 9:37 am

      you are right on that point

  11. Rusty on March 9, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    I am unsure if PA state laws permit carrying concealed with a permit in school zones. Do you or anyone happen to know?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Rusty, here is a snippet from PA Statute. 18:912. In short schools are not ok, but school zones appear from this to be ok.

      A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if he possesses a weapon in the buildings of, on the grounds of, or in any conveyance providing transportation to or from any elementary or secondary publicly-funded educational institution, any elementary or secondary private school licensed by the Department of Education or any elementary or secondary parochial school.

      Further this is a great explanation of a recent relevant court case in PA https://blog.princelaw.com/2017/02/16/the-goslin-decisions-impact-on-possessing-weapons-on-school-property/

      • Rusty on March 9, 2018 at 4:39 pm

        But that says school grounds? To me that means school zones? So when I drop off my son if I am carrying I am illegal? That’s how I read that

        • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 7:19 pm

          Rusty, I don’t know how PA interprets the word “school grounds” but for me personally that would suggest property owned by the school and not necessarily anything within 1000 feet of that school property.

          • Rusty on March 9, 2018 at 7:57 pm

            It’s crazy how there could be so many interpretations of these laws

  12. Daniel Polancih on March 9, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    I have the NRA list printed out and kept in wallet for reference so I know where NOT to spend my hard earned money with any of these business!

  13. Jim Johnson on March 9, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    This is my chief concern with the National Reciprocity Initiative. If the school zones are not specifically addressed then only permits issued by the state that is responsible for the school are valid. In short, even if reciprocity passes, it won’t mean anything and will potentially subject folks to severe penalties for violating the federal act due to unnecessary confusion. Or am I wrong about that?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      You aren’t wrong but that is no different than our current reciprocity. Right now those same penalties exist when you go to a state that honors your permit but isn’t your home state. So you have nothing to lose in this regard with the Reciprocity Act.

  14. PAMELA K FARR on March 9, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    What are the laws in Arizona for people who have CCW (concealed carry) cards?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      If you have a concealed carry permit from Arizona then this Federal law doesn’t apply to you. State law becomes the only relevant factor.

      Arizona law prohibits guns accordingly: “The grounds of any school, other than the parking lot. In order to be legal in the parking lot the weapon must be unloaded, and, if left in an unattended vehicle, such vehicle must be locked and the weapon out of sight.”

      So the way I read that the school zone is not prohibited by Arizona law.

      • PAMELA K FARR on March 10, 2018 at 11:58 am

        Thank you.
        So if I stay in a parked car, in front of the school or in the parking lot of the school,, with a loaded handgun in my possession, while my husband goes into school and picks up our Grandchildren, it is legal.
        All “gun free” zones should be marked “OPEN SEASON, COME ON IN AND KILL EVERYONE & EVERYTHING!


        • PAMELA K FARR on March 10, 2018 at 12:00 pm

          I should have mentioned that both my husband and I have CCW cards.

  15. R J Wellner on March 9, 2018 at 5:01 pm

    What about if your just driving down a public road and within 1000 ft of a school. Do you have to stop and unload and lock up your gun just to drive past a school?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 9, 2018 at 7:16 pm

      There are no exceptions listed in the federal law for transportation through a school zone. So, if you don’t have a permit or don’t otherwise meet one of the above-mentioned exceptions then yes. If you have a permit then the federal law referenced above doesn’t apply to you in your home state at all.

  16. Dean Swartz on March 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    If you have a Concealed Cary Permit from you home state and are in another state driving on the Interstate Highway system, how are we to know whether or not there is a school within 1000 feet of the Highway? In Ohio, we have schools which back up to the highway.

  17. Kyle on March 10, 2018 at 3:32 am


    The good old “Constitution” State. Smh ?‍♂️.

  18. Bill Tallen on March 10, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Just to reiterate, the state permit only exempts the individual from the federal GFSZA if that “license” from the state explicitly authorizes carry in a school zine as defined. Note the language of the federal statute: “licensed by the state TO DO SO.” In Wyoming, we amended state concealed carry law to allow school employees with concealed carry permits, who are authorized by their local school board, to carry in district schools. So they are specifically licensed to do so, but no other permit holders are. Important distinction!

  19. Doug on March 10, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    “Please note that the permit only makes this law not apply to you when in the state where that permit was issued.”
    This is a big and often misunderstood “note”. I know many people who have permits from Utah or Virginia, because they are recognized by many other states, that if they’re unaware of this exception can get into a lot of trouble fast. I would point out that school grounds and inside a school building or at a school event, like a sporting match, are quite different and regulated separately in most states.

  20. Doug on March 10, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    It’s been found that Daycare centers and in churches are included as a school zone during hours of operation or with children present. Though, state laws may specifically address this separately.

  21. Paul on March 10, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Question. I have a carry permit in the state of Tn. On occasion I have to pick one of my grandchildren up for various reasons. Would Securing my weapon in the glove compartment to enter the building to check out the child violate any state laws?

    • Jacob Paulsen on March 10, 2018 at 10:28 pm

      Paul, the fact that you have your TN permit means the federal law referenced above doesn’t apply to you while in TN. As to TN laws I’m no expert but here is a quick summary based on my fast research.

      TN lists schools as being off-limits in this manner: Any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.

      HOWEVER, there is also a clause in the law that guarantees your right to keeping a firearm in your car. It reads as:

      Notwithstanding any provision of law or any ordinance or resolution adopted by the governing body of a city, county or metropolitan government, including any ordinance or resolution enacted before April 8, 1986, that prohibits or regulates the possession, transportation or storage of a firearm or firearm ammunition by a handgun carry permit holder, the holder of a valid handgun carry permit recognized in Tennessee may, unless expressly prohibited by federal law, transport and store a firearm or firearm ammunition in the permit holder’s motor vehicle, as defined in § 55-1-103, while on or utilizing any public or private parking area if:
      (1) The permit holder’s motor vehicle is parked in a location where it is permitted to be; and
      (2) The firearm or ammunition being transported or stored in the motor vehicle:
      (A) Is kept from ordinary observation if the permit holder is in the motor vehicle; or
      (B) Is kept from ordinary observation and locked within the trunk, glove box, or interior of the
      person’s motor vehicle or a container securely affixed to such motor vehicle if the
      permit holder is not in the motor vehicle.

  22. Matt D on April 25, 2018 at 12:02 am

    I live in Washington State and am the pastor of a church that leases our property to a private Christian School. We share the facility throughout the week. I have a concealed carry permit. Am I allowed to carry on campus during school hours? Also the school does not meet on Sunday mornings when we meet, can I carry then? Again the property is not exclusively used by the school as we have separate offices but share common space. Love the article please help if you can.

    • Jacob Paulsen on April 25, 2018 at 9:33 am

      Matt, I’m no expert on law in Washington State but my gut feeling is that you can not carry a firearm during the week when the school is in session. If I was in your shoes I would honestly find an attorney and hire them to research this question.

  23. JC on April 27, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    Hey Jacob I’m glad you did this article as no one has talked about this law for quite some time there seems to be quite a bit confusion surrounding this statute as it stands, I’ve heard people saying to things about the GFSZ act ranging from it being overturned to it being changed with new amendments to people saying that they just disregard it, the thing is I’ve personally checked into this law recently which is actually the way I found your article. I think that you should do some deeper explaining in your article because it seems the statute as it stands today may not actually apply to people as it seems todo plainly for instance, if you go looking you can easily find the court case that overturned the law in 1994 lopez case. Then you can find people claiming it was reenacted later some people say 1995 and 1996, if you go looking you will find that there are bills for those years mirroring the original law from 1990 but none of them show they were passed. even weirder is it seems some sources claiming they passed the amendments in 1997 with the department of defense appropriation act with specific language that compels prosecutors to specifically articulate how the firearm possessed in the 1000′ zone is affecting commerce. Ive yet to be able to confirm through any official sources such as congress’s website or other means whether this law was ever officially reenacted and signed back into law but it appears the law as signed by GB was over turned. Although it seems that there have been some people still charged under this act since then as enhancements to charges they were already being charged with.

    • Jacob Paulsen on April 28, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      Wikipedia has a good history of the bill explaining how it was re-enacted as part of the commerce act.

  24. Joe on June 27, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I have a not really related parking lot question. I have a carry permit in NC. I occasionally go inside a private elementary school. I know that I can’t carry a gun into the school, but I’m not sure if I can leave it locked in my car when I go inside. I’ve never seen a sign telling me that I can’t, and from what I’ve read, that seems to mean that I can in NC. I know that I can in a public college campus.

  25. MK Heisenberg on July 12, 2018 at 6:07 am

    The federal statute appears to include any private “school” which is then interpreted in this article to be any elementary or high school. I believe I can legally carry in NC at a private church children’s daycare center (ages 0-4) on church property as it is not a elementary or high “school,” without professionally licensed teachers…any thoughts on non-elementary church pre-k or daycare centers?

  26. Mark Miller on September 12, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Jacob Paulsen,
    You make reference to the 1990 law “this Federal Law, which was signed into law in 1990 by President Bush, makes it illegal to have a firearm in a school zone. ” Wasn’t this law determined to be unconstitutional in U.S. v Lopez? Shouldn’t you be referring to the 1994 law?

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 13, 2018 at 6:51 am

      I’m not aware of a 1994 law. The original law from 1990 was revised in 1996 after US VS Lopez in 1995. So the original law was not taken off the books and a new one written. The original law was modified after it was deemed unconstitutional.

    • Dann on April 19, 2020 at 5:02 am

      Does the law still apply when schools are closed and not in session? I.e. during the current pandemic, if I, as a pedestrian, need to make an essential trip for groceries, to pay bills, etc, and need to walk through a campus that is, obviously, not in session, does the law apply? (I’m in Idaho, which is constitutional carry)

      • Jacob Paulsen on April 20, 2020 at 12:52 pm

        Yes it still applies. There are no provisions in the law relating to school being in session.

  27. Mia on September 18, 2018 at 1:49 pm


    There were two policies:The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. It seems like the 1996 law is actually the 1994 one but revised??….Can you please clarify, have these bills turned into one bill currently? I am supposed to explain the difference of both bills, I need clarification for a class, thank you!

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 18, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      Mia, I’m on the same page as you now. The 1994 GFSA signed by President Clinton is a unique and separate law from the law I am dissecting and explaining in the above article. The 1994 Act requires that states have a law in place that requires local educational agencies to expel, for at least one year, any student who brings a weapon to school. So it really is all about students not bringing guns to school whereas the 1990 act (revised in 96) is all about preventing the presence of a firearm by anyone, above and beyond students. Hope that helps!

      • Mia on September 18, 2018 at 8:54 pm


        But why would you say the 1990 Act was dismissed by congress? They said it was because congress felt like the bill over stepped its powers by trying to regulate commerce. Does that even make sense? Haha, I hope I am saying it right. I need to clearly explain both bills. Thanks!

        • Jacob Paulsen on September 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm

          Mia, not sure where I said it was dismissed by congress. I recommend for a full history of the challenges to the law and the changes made you review the Wikipedia page on the topic.

  28. Matt on September 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Please explain to me how “licensed by the State” does not extend to a State sworn Peace Officer? So you’re telling me a random citizen with next to zero training can obtain a CCL and carry in a school zone yet a sworn Peace Officer with extensive firearms training cannot?

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 21, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      Matt, read above and you will see there is a specific exception in the act for law enforcement officers acting in his or her official capacity. So, yes they can.

  29. Matt on September 21, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    Yes, that is clear. Obviously a LEO in official capacity can carry in schools and school zones. I am speaking of an off-duty LEO. We are “licensed by the State” to carry off duty. How does a civilian have more rights to carry a firearm within a school zone than a sworn Peace Officer who is off-shift?

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 22, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      Matt, sorry I misunderstood. I believe it would depend on the state and what laws the state has that determine what off duty LEO can do. The federal law essentially allows that anyone whom the state has “licensed” and in which that licensing process requires a background check. I would say Law Enforcement would qualify, but its probably a question of state law and interpretation.

  30. Bob C on September 25, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    So I read all of the questions and replies. My question is, I have an Ala. CCP, so you say federal law doesn’t apply ito me while in Ala. Ala, law permits carrying on school grounds with a CCW as long as you aren’t trying to do harm (duh) …But on every school door is says No Weapons Allowed. So does the city school board trump Ala. law. Or is this sign BS. Secondly since other states honor Ala CCP can I go by their state law and Fed ,aw doesn’t apply. This all is very confusing even as well explained as you made it.

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 25, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      Your AL permit only makes the federal law not apply to you in your home state. Even though other states may honor your permit, the federal law still applies outside of your home state. As to the ability for the city to prohibit guns despite the state law allowing it I can’t speak to the legality of that. It would depend on the existence of firearm-related preemption laws in AL and I’m not familiar enough with that state’s laws to say but ultimately even if those signs are not “legal” or “enforceable” it would take someone challenging that law either by appealing a criminal charge or by filing a lawsuit to actually make them not legal or enforceable.

  31. Cire on October 11, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    As a federal law enforcement officer, I can tell you that it is all smoke and mirrors. The only time I have ever seen anyone charged with this is as an enhancement when they were already being charged with another felony and it happened to be in a GFSZ.

    As far as off duty officers carrying, many state/local LEOs have 24/7 peace officer status in their state and can be criminally charged, or disciplined for failure to act, even off-duty. Of course that act can vary from getting fully engaged, down to simply dialing 911. If this is their agency policy, they are in official capacity 24/7.

    As this is a federal law, the US Attorney’s Office would have to accept the charge. Absent other circumstances (as mentioned in the first paragraph), the chances of being “pulled over” by a Fed LEO while you are in a GFSZ are virtually none.

    If you did manage to get pulled over by a rogue Federal Protective Service officer, US Forest Service, etc near a federal building that happened to be near a GFSZ, you’d have a better chance of seeing a flying unicorn then to actually have the USAO accept the charge, They rarely take the legitimate cases that are presented, so this one wouldn’t stand a chance (unless there is more to your story, like drugs in the car., felon in possession of a weapon, etc). It would be extremely unlikely that this charge would be filed as a stand-alone charge.

    If anyone believes that an off-duty LEO is going to pull over and secure their weapon in the trunk every time they approach a GFSZ, then I have some magic jumping beans that are on sale, this week only, for $29.99 + S&H.

    The reality is no one in or around the school will know you have your weapon unless you brandish it, you draw it for a legitimate reason (hopefully), or you do a piss poor job of concealing it (Desert Eagle with a t-shirt on).

  32. joseph waitzman on November 15, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Please look at the news release today concerning Palatine, IL school dist 15 intention to hire retired LEO and arm them in schools.
    I am a IL retired LEO with concealed carry privileges granted by the State of Illinois Training and Standards Board, referred to Illinois Retired Officers Concealed Carry (IROCC) We must meet certain career standards and pass an annual firearms qualification. Does the IL IROCC program appear to meet the exemption under Exemption ii? Thank you

    • Jacob Paulsen on November 15, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      Joseph I think you for sure meet at least one if not more than one of the exceptions listed which means the Federal law (as described above) doesn’t apply to you. Beyond that I’m not expert enough in IL law to speak to any state or local laws that are at play in the decision of Palatine.

  33. Bill Fasula on April 29, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    I have a carry permit. So does this mean that I cannot even drive by a school on a public road that is less than 1000 feet from the school?

    • Jacob Paulsen on April 30, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Bill, I think if you review the above article you will find your answer, which is that this law/act doesn’t apply to those who have a permit from the state.

  34. Nathan on September 26, 2019 at 8:02 am

    I live on a border line of county and city property in California. A locals business down the road on county property has about 10 acres and the geese have made it there home recently. This property lies within 800 feet of a high school. Opening season is this Saturday and they think they can hunt those geese with the school right down the road. Mind you children WILL be present on Saturday due to the youth soccer program. They claim a “grey area” in the law. I understand it’s private property, but it lies within 1000 feet of a school. Do they have the legal right to shoot and hunt on their property that close to the school??

    • Jacob Paulsen on September 26, 2019 at 12:25 pm

      Nathan as you can see above there is a clear exemption in the law for private property not part of school grounds. So nothing about this law would prohibit them.

  35. Mighty Mo on October 29, 2019 at 7:14 pm

    Two questions for a Missouri resident practicing Constituional Carry without a permit:

    1. Does the open and concealed carryjng of a cap and ball revolver or other weapon defined by the ATF as not being a firearm (antiques, repros, not using fixed ammo) count as a violation of the GFSZA?

    2. Does carrying a modern, fixed ammo firearm unloaded with ammo and firearm stored together in the locked glove box provide compliance with the GFSZA?

    • Jacob Paulsen on October 31, 2019 at 10:21 am

      Mighty Mo:
      1: The GFSZA says firearm. I’m not aware of any legal challenges to that definition so I would GUESS that AOW defined by the ATF as not being a firearm would not be a firearm and thus not be against THIS law.
      2: As the law states you can have an unloaded firearm in a locked container. So a locked glove box would qualify in my opinion.

  36. Jack on December 10, 2019 at 11:25 am

    I think the important details here are that:

    1. The Supreme Court didn’t even like this law when it was pretty left-leaning, and the modern court would likely blow it out of the water if the ATF actually prosecuted someone using their stated interpretation of the law.

    and failing that

    2. As far as anyone knows, it has only ever been enforced on people who were breaking like three other laws and were actually on school grounds causing trouble.

    It is essentially impossible to carry a gun across state lines and follow the letter of this law, so I would suggest just being a little bit more cautious when you’re carrying next to a school in another state so you don’t attract any additional attention from law enforcement, which you should have been doing anyway regardless of the law since it’s a school zone.

  37. Mikejh2324 on June 17, 2020 at 9:14 pm

    Can a person carry (legally with a permit) on a school sidewalk when school is not in session? Anyone know?

  38. Paul Bilodeau on August 5, 2020 at 6:36 am

    I found and joined your site after finding it through USCCA. I have wanted clarification on this issue for a long time.

    I live in Vermont that is a constitutional carry state. There is no provision that I know of for obtaining any civilian permits that would allow for possession within the 1000 foot zone.

    State law (https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/13/085/04004) reads that I can’t possess a firearm while within a school building or school bus, however it also states: “No person shall knowingly possess a firearm or a dangerous or deadly weapon on any school property with the intent to injure another person.” Am I interpreting this correctly to mean that if I’m conceal carrying within the 1000 foot zone, but not in a bus or a building and I’m not intending to injure another person, that it is then permissible to carry? If so, does this supersede the federal law?

    I live in a small town and with the various schools scattered around, virtually 80% of the town is off-limits, I can’t even step off my property.

    • Jacob Paulsen on August 5, 2020 at 7:53 am

      Paul, it is my opinion that this is a bit of a gray area because the Federal law effectively says it is illegal unless your state permits it. So the question would be, does Vermont permit it? The best answer is that Vermont doesn’t prohibit it but is otherwise silent on the topic right? So if I was an attorney and you asked me for my opinion I would error on the side of caution and say it is illegal in Vermont to have a firearm within the 1000 foot zone because no Vermont law actively allows or permits for it.

  39. ann0 on August 14, 2020 at 4:43 pm

    Is this law in effect when school is not in session, ie summer vacation? Cause I do know that a School Zone speed limit only applies if school is in session.

  40. Dan on October 19, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    This Federal Code was challenged and considered unconstitional by the supreme court because the it could not prove that carrying a firearm in or around a school(zone) would affect commerce. The language “affects interstate commerce” is from the congress’s power to control economy whereby carrying a firearm in or around a school zone does not affect economy. Please see below:

    • Jacob Paulsen on October 29, 2020 at 8:13 am

      Dan, the Supreme Court held the original act passed in 1990 as unconstitutional however following the Lopez decision, US Attorney General Janet Reno proposed changes to the law that were adopted in section 657 of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997. Most hold that the changes made circumvent the Supreme Court’s prior ruling and it hasn’t been challenged since those changes have been made.

  41. Flyboy on April 28, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Any idea whether a homeschool cooperative (commonly called a co-op) would fall under the “private” school definition? My son goes once a week to a homeschool co-op at a local Church, and (assuming permission from the Church leader, if required, has been obtained) would I be okay carrying concealed? One of the co-op leaders actually prefers me to be be, since I’m one of the only men there, and the Church sometimes gets random people walking in, so she (and I) feel better having someone better able to protect the kids and fellow parents / teachers.

  42. Omar Garcia on June 11, 2021 at 9:09 pm

    So if I don’t have a LTC but do have a rifle in the car’s trunk in a case, locked with 1 lock (or 1 zip tie), and nothing in the chamber, I should be fine if I have the magazine next to it loaded right? And what if it has be be accessed, loaded, and used in a self defense circumstance?

  43. Jack on August 10, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Wasn’t this 1990 law ruled unconstitutional by the SCOTUS in United States v. Lopez in 1995? It was a case about the Commerce clause. SCOTUS ruled that congress had exceeded its authority and that “Possession of a handgun near school is not an economic activity nor has a substantial effect on interstate commerce, and therefore cannot be regulated by Congress. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 is unconstitutional.”

    • Jacob Paulsen on August 10, 2021 at 4:07 pm

      The Supreme Court did hold that the original act was unconstitutional. Since then it has been amended. Specifically, US Attorney General Janet Reno proposed changes that were adopted in 1997. The new, amended version has yet to be challenged in the US Supreme Court but it has been reviewed and upheld by several federal circuit courts. See 2005 United States VS Dorsey, US V. Weekes, US V. Benally, US V. Cruz-Rodriguez.

  44. Chris Blevins on August 13, 2022 at 7:43 am

    I disagree with having a weapon withing 1000ft of school grounds unless u r trained and licensed. Now days schools are going to some churches..my wife and her best friend volunteer to teach these kids, so my question is that would be considered a gun free school zone right? Not only that the high school is within 1000ft also. So our pastor is using a 70 yr old man and he is just pulling his gun on people my wife was ordering stuff for the upcoming classes and the pastor and his gun toting Tigger happy friend almost shot my wife and this guy had held the gun to the back of my wife’s best friends head!! This guy is FLAT OUT GOING TO KILL SOMEONE AND HES IN A SCHOOL!!! What is going on here?!?!?

  45. mike on November 14, 2022 at 12:24 am

    Louisiana considers your car an extention of you home , and has the same constitutional rights to protect human life “not property or animals “with deadly force .That being said , you don’t need a stupid permit states make money from to transport weapons on you property . In non prohibited places you can open carry without a permit .However concealed ,or not the laws apply for entering property on foot wher prohibited .A recent victory is a new Louisiana bil passed , that employers cannot hold workers responsible by prohibitive applications for stored firearms in your private vehicle , as employee isn’t in violation of law .California started that liberal crap , and Louisiana flushed it down the toilet . But you are responsible for securing it in a matter not to temp theft , and used in accordance with laws that constitute protecting life in emanate danger .Anyway schools should only be the extent of their property lines as gun free zone as they don’t technically govern or own public right of ways or other property adjacent their grounds .If a school has to worry about guns around them , then they should hire security to protect inside their property , and teach kids to duck and cover . It worked in the 1950’s atomic age … lol

  46. GC on May 8, 2023 at 10:48 am

    Our Church doesn’t really have an elementary/ high school attached to it but we have Sunday Schools every Sunday. Will our Church be considered a school where you cannot carry your firearm?

  47. So on May 10, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    If it’s a federal law. And the state doesn’t enforce that law then you haft to be charged and tried by fed agents.

  48. RChmpK on May 21, 2023 at 9:05 pm

    Wasn’t the Gun-Free Zones Act of 1990 found unconstitutional by the SCOTUS in 1995? The federal gov’t can only pass laws that affect interstate commerce & this is clearly unrelated to interstate commerce.


    • RChmpK on May 21, 2023 at 9:11 pm

      Oh… I see above… Janet Reno amended the act & it has yet to be challenged, so it is still in effect, unfortunately, though I know some school districts allow teachers to carry (and there has never been a discharge of any gun in a school that allows teachers to carry).

  49. Ray on August 16, 2023 at 12:13 am

    Should there be signs out perhaps a different color line down the roads in Gun free zones to advise when within the 1000 foot boundary?

    Also, can someone tell me if any map app like Google/Apple Maps or Waze can add advisories of upcoming Gun Free Zones or offer routes not affected?

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