THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
"Gun-Free School Zones Amendments Act of 1995"
The President has transmitted to the Congress a legislative proposal entitled the "Gun-Free School Zones Amendments Act of 1995." This legislation amends the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 to meet the constitutional requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in its recent decision in United States v. Lopez, which struck down the 1990 Act.
In the Lopez case, a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the Congress had exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause because the 1990 law failed to require that a proscribed possession of firearms have a requisite connection to interstate commerce.
In the wake of that decision, the President directed Attorney General Reno to present him with an analysis of the Lopez decision and to recommend a legislative solution to the problem identified by that decision.
The Attorney General transmitted her analysis and recommendation to the President on May 5, 1995, and her legislative recommendation is presented in this proposal.
The legislative proposal would amend the Gun-Free School Zones Act by adding the requirement that the Government prove that the firearm has "moved in or the possession of such firearm otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce."
The addition of this jurisdictional element would limit the Act's "reach to a discrete set of firearm possessions that additionally have an explicit connection with or effect on interstate commerce," as the Court stated in Lopez, and thereby bring it within the Congress' Commerce Clause authority.
The Attorney General reported to the President that this proposal would have little, if any, impact on the ability of prosecutors to charge this offense, for the vast majority of firearms have been "in . . . commerce" before reaching their eventual possessor.
Furthermore, by also including the possibility of proving the offense by showing the possession of the firearm "otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce," this proposal would leave open the possibility of showing, under the facts of a particular case, that although the firearm itself may not have "moved in . . . interstate or foreign commerce," its possession nonetheless has a sufficient nexus to commerce.
In his message to the Congress, the President stated, "I pledge that the Administration will do our part to help make our schools safe and the neighborhoods around them safe. We are prepared to work immediately with the Congress to enact this legislation."
# # #