FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

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About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More

Schools and School Zones

I. Introduction

Because of the complexity of the federal rule, and the overlap with state provisions, Readers are provided with more analysis than in other places in the GLBS Guide. In light of recent school shootings, there may be a zero-tolerance policy for even minor mistakes or technical violations. The most restrictive, state or federal laws must be strictly followed.

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II. Commerce Clause

In the statutory language of the U.S. Code, it specifically references firearms that move in interstate commerce. This comes from the Gun Control Act of 1968, and is the express means by which Congress is empowered with the authority to regulate firearms in the states and their school zones. This, with other areas of federal authority, endures because of movement of firearms in interstate commerce.

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III. Definition of Terms

A precise definition of terms is necessary.

Under federal law, a “school zone” is comprised of the grounds of, or within a public, parochial or private school or within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of such a school.  The term “school” itself means a school that provides elementary or secondary education as specified under state law.

Although it could differ under state law, generally speaking, an “elementary school” means any combination of kindergarten and Grades One (1) through Eight (8). A “secondary school” means a high school. A “high school” is a school with any combination of Grades Nine (9) through Twelve (12).

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Thus, depending upon the state law where You anticipate carrying a handgun under reciprocity it may be necessary to delve into the educational or criminal statutes to determine the exact scope and application of how these schools and grades are classified under the applicable state law.

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IV. Penal Rule

The federal penal provisions that Congress adopted make it generally unlawful for any individual to possess a firearm that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is in a school zone. Equally, it is unlawful for any person to knowingly, or with reckless disregard for the safety of others, to discharge, or attempt to discharge, a firearm at a place the individual knows is a school zone.

Thus, when carrying in a reciprocal state, this federal criminal law would apply, along with any state criminal rules.  However, there are exceptions for licensees under this federal law if the state allows and affords such right.

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V. Penalties for Violation

A person who violates the school zone law under the FPC shall be fined, imprisoned for not more than five (5) years, or both.

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VI. Exceptions Allowing Carry

There are a number of logical, and necessary, exceptions to the federal Gun Free School Zone legislation regarding prohibition of firearms in school zones. These may well apply to You in carrying a handgun under reciprocity in another state.

The most likely to be applicable with reciprocal carry are set forth and discussed, as follows:

A. Private Property

The FPC prohibition does not apply to the possession of a firearm on private property that is not a part of the school grounds.

Home or Gun Store Across from School.  A home or gun store might be right across the street from a primary or secondary school. This private property is not encompassed within the FPC prohibition, thus carrying is permitted on such private property.

B. License to Carry

Another exception to the school zone provision of the U.S. Code is if the person possessing the firearm is licensed by the state in which the school zone is located.

This applies as long as the laws related to licensing require that, before an individual obtains such a License, the law enforcement authorities of the state verify that the person is qualified under law to receive the license (i.e., “proper person,” “good character and reputation,” and “proper reason”) and the general prohibition rule does not apply to possession of a firearm.

As a word of caution, some states that issue permits and have reciprocity agreements do not recognize a CCP as valid for carry on a school premises, with limitations. If that is the case, You are committing a criminal act, even though Congress has allowed states to make this exception.

Also, “schools” may be more defined differently under state law, with differing penal scope and regulation.

C. Unloaded and Locked

A common state and federal provision relates to the need to transport weapons. The FPC has a similar provision. The general criminal rule does not apply to a firearm that is not loaded and locked in a container, or locked in a firearms rack that is on a motor vehicle.

This is the federal right to intrastate and interstate transportation provided by federal law addressed in other provisions of the GLBS Guide. Obviously, in reciprocal carry, a number of scenarios could cause this to be considered by Readers.

D. School Program/Activity

Some schools have or host firearms safety courses or events.  Such events are exempted from the criminal provisions prohibition.  That is, the FPC does not apply to an individual and firearm for use in a program approved by a school in the school zone.  Again, while limited, there are a few foreseeable situations where this might apply in the overall context of reciprocal carry in another state.

E. Traversing Premises for Access to Hunting LandS

The final exception relates to lawful hunting and accessing the hunting lands from school property. A person may carry a firearm that is unloaded and is possessed by the 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.

F. Exception for Discharge

Again, consistent with the needs of schools, and balancing private property rights against Congress’ right to regulate under the Commerce Clause, discharge of firearms are excepted in certain situations. This situation is a couple of steps removed from reciprocal carry, but given the diversity of Readers and what they do, this is briefly set forth.

The FPC’s school zone prohibition does not preclude discharge of a firearm on private property that is not a part of the school grounds. Equally, it does not preclude discharge of a firearm as part of a program approved by a school in the school zone, by an individual who is participating in the program.

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VII. Colleges and Universities

Following the Virginia Tech shootings (the first incident), a National debate with respect to the student’s right to carry handguns on campus began. In essence, this pitted college students against their institutions. In fact, there is a national student group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC).

As a general rule of thumb, however, almost all colleges and universities in the Nation have a strong, point-blank policy against possession of firearms on campus. There is no federal law, penal or otherwise, addressing this.

Thus, You have to look to state law to determine if there is such a civil or penal prohibition. However, Utah and Texas have laws allowing carry on campus.

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VIII. Conclusion

Many states have their own rules covering schools and school zones. For this reason, it can easily trip up a CCP if federal law has an applicable exception to allow the carry of the handgun, but state law does not. In this case, carrying is still prohibited because it is illegal under state law.  This is a very complicated area, and due diligence in researching and planning is required.

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FIND GUN LAWS BY STATE

Table of Contents

About the author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Bryan L. Ciyou is a trial and appellate attorney at the Indianapolis law firm of Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. He earned his BA with distinction and graduated through the honors program, along with his JD,... Read More