In an article on Ammoland, Lee Williams warns people who carry firearms legally in states that don't require a permit. His warning is that the Gun Free School Zones Act is a trap waiting for unsuspecting, and otherwise law-abiding gun owners. It's worth giving you the rundown.
Gun Free Schools Zones Act—
In the past, we published posts defining the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 (GFSZA) and how the courts have applied it. Essentially, the GFSZA makes it illegal for anyone to possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of school property. For a detailed explanation, check out this post.
The law creates serious issues, as it is not always clear where ‘school property' begins, and exactly where the 1,000 zone is. Furthermore, people oftentimes live within 1,000 feet of a school, and so if, while you were carrying your firearm, you left your property to walk your dog, you would be in violation. Additionally, as we will see in a moment, the law even applies to motorists.
The Trap Set for Law Abiding gun Owners—
Now the GFSZA provides that a state may give an exemption for individuals with state issued concealed carry permits. And here is the ‘trap' Williams speaks of, those who carry legally in constitutional or permit less carry states, do not meet the requirements for this exemption.
The last few years we've seen many states shift to permit less carry, so many more Americans are carrying legally without a permit. Because of this, many more law-abiding citizens are at risk of falling into the trap.
Now I imagine at least some readers are thinking:
If I drive through a school zone and I am carrying legally without a permit under my state's permit less carry law, how is a law enforcement officer going to know?
You're 100% correct, for the most part. Law enforcement won't know… until they do.
Potential for Abuse —
Police departments often times focus on selective enforcement. Typically, it's in response to public complaint of speeders or reckless drivers. One such area of selective traffic enforcement is…school zones. Motorists have a hard time obeying the reduced speed limits within school zones.
Now say you get stopped by an officer. If your state has a duty to notify law (I wrote about my disdain for these laws here) you're obligated to inform the officer you're carrying a firearm. As I mentioned in my article, and Williams correctly points out in his recent post, this has serious 5th Amendment legal concerns. You're being compelled to make incriminating statements.
A conviction under the GFSZA doesn't require you to knowingly or purposefully violated the law. Just that you did.
Lee Williams' article goes deeper into some of the legal history of the GFSZA, so if that interests you, follow this link.
Will law enforcement engage in selective enforcement within school zones in order to “get guns off the streets?” Well, to be sure, not everywhere. But it is not uncommon for a local jurisdiction to push back against state gun laws even when states with preemption law compels them to follow. It isn't a stretch to see this as an opportunity for a locality to abuse their authority, disarming legal gun owners and enforcing anti gun ideology.
Look to The Future—
Last year Representative Tom Massie introduced legislation called the “Safe Students Act” which would repeal provisions of the GFSZA and shift the authority back to the states to determine the best practice regarding firearms and school grounds. Massie said he would propose the bill again, so when he does, make sure to contact your representatives and tell them the importance of fixing the law.
If this type of content interests you, may I suggest you try listening to our Concealed Carry Podcast? The podcast has been going strong since February 2016, and consistently ranked at the top of podcasts in the defensive firearm genre. We cover news, legal issues, training tips, defensive gun uses, trauma medicine, and more, all from a citizen defender's point of view. You can interact on and watch on Wednesdays through Safe Schools Act or Safe Schools Act. Or catch it on your favorite podcast streaming app.