A handful of Republicans have signed on to a bill that would repeal portions of the 1990 Gun-Free Schools Zones Act, saying the federally imposed ban on carrying firearms within a certain distance of school campuses is “ineffective” and nonsensical.
The bill, H.R. 34, called the Safe Students Act, was introduced by Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie earlier this month. It’s a near carbon copy of the bill that Ron Paul, ex-congressman from Texas, tried to pass several years ago.
“Gun-free school zones are ineffective,” Massie said. “They make people less safe by inviting criminals into target-rich, no-risk environments. Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has signed on as one of the cosponsors, along with fellow House Republicans Brian Babin, also from Texas; James Comer, from Kentucky; and Jody Hice, from Georgia.
The legislation comes as the number of school shootings in recent years has risen. Further, a study from the Blaze found that 92 percent of the mass shootings in America in the last seven years have taken place in gun-free zones, underscoring Massie’s view the federal ban is not working as intended.
Select schools have already taken steps to allow teachers and certain staff members to arm themselves while on campus, so long as they have passed a firearms background check and possess a concealed carry permit. On top of that, the U.S. Supreme Court actually struck down the Gun-Free Zones School Act in 1995, calling it an overreach of federal authority. Congress was forced to rewrite the portions deemed unconstitutional, and the revised version was passed in 1996.
Now the law contains the provision firearms affected by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution – meaning, those that have been moved, traded or sold across state or foreign lines — are banned from campus properties. The additional stipulation supposedly provides the constitutional authority the Supreme Court ruled was lacking in the original law. But the newer version has not yet been tested in the high court. Several lower courts, however, have upheld convictions for gun-related charges brought under this act.
Gun groups and defenders of the Second Amendment are on board with H.R. 34, saying the repeal is long overdue.
As John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, wrote, “Ask yourself: Would you feel safer with a sign on your house saying ‘this house is a gun-free zone?’ But if you wouldn’t put these signs on your home, why put them elsewhere?”
Democrats, however, are likely to wage a public relations fight against the bill when it comes to the floor for a full House vote. In June 2016, members of the Democratic Party staged a sit-in in the House to protest Republicans who denied them the chance to vote on a gun control bill. And even when the Rules Committee warned that such behavior constituted grounds for punishment, some of these same Democrats hinted at another sit-in over gun control just a few months later.
Republicans have tried several times over the years to repeal gun-free zones around schools, beginning in 2007 with Paul’s bill. But the legislation—contested as it was by those on the other side of the political aisle, who controlled, at times, all of Congress and the White House—has always failed. Presently, Republicans have majorities in both the House and Senate, and President-elect Donald Trump has stated on a couple of occasions during campaign season his distaste for gun-free zones.
In January 2016, for instance, while Trump was speaking in Burlington, Vermont, he said, “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools and, you have to, and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, OK? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”
In May, Trump stepped back a bit from that position and during a couple of broadcast interviews indicated that he meant that school resource officers or trained teachers should be the ones to carry guns on campuses but that blanket gun-free zones were akin to “offering up candy to bad people.”
The takeaway: After years of trying, Republicans may finally have their opportunity to pass the repeal—much to the chagrin of Democrats and others who see the move as increasing rather than decreasing the danger to students.