What is the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act?
Title 18 U.S.C. §922(q) known as "The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act" is a federal law, currently in effect, which makes it illegal for an armed citizen to be within a "school zone" as defined by Title 18 U.S.C. §921(25). These "school zones" include, but are not limited to any public parks, fairgrounds, sidewalks, roads, and highways which are within 1000 feet of the property line of any public or private elementary, middle, or high school in our nation. As the maps below illustrate, it is not possible to travel any reasonable distance in any populated area of our nation without entering a "gun free school zone." This fact has not escaped law enforcement officers who want to arrest armed citizens, but are unable to find any other violation. The following quote is from an internal police E-mail obtained by Wisconsin Carry. In this E-mail, Wisconsin law enforcement is discussing the use of their state level gun free school zones law, to arrest otherwise lawfully armed citizens.
"With close to 400 schools in the city, it's unreasonable to go armed in a residential neighborhood and not know you're close to a school of some sort."
-Lieutenant Gary J. Gacek Milwaukee Police Department Office of Management, Analysis and Planning.
According to the maps made available to their patrol officers, Lieutenant Gacek is mostly correct.
How does this impact permit holders?
People who have a carry permit physically issued by the State in which the school is located are exempted by the federal law, but only in the State that physically issued the permit, and only if their State performed the "proper" background check. The law does not exempt out-of-state travelers who have permits recognized by the State they are visiting, those that live in States which allow unlicensed carry, or off-duty law enforcement officers. It is also important to note that it is a violation for anyone other than an on-duty police officer or a school security guard to discharge a firearm in a school zone for any reason. A State carry permit never exempts a person from the discharge prohibition.
Anyone convicted of violating this law faces up to five years in federal prison for each violation, and will become statutorily prohibited by the Gun Control Act of 1968 from owning firearms for life.
A letter written by the Chief of the Firearms Division at ATF confirms the agency's interpretation of the law as it applies to out-of-state permit holders. (Download ATF Letter)
A second letter, written in February 2012 by our own US Senator, Tom Coburn, confirms that innocent people are being arrested under this law when they unknowingly violate it. (Download Coburn Letter)
As of March 2012, Forty-nine (49) states issue carry permits, and most of these states enter into reciprocity agreements with other states, where each state agrees to recognize an out-of-state carry permit, just as they do an out-of-state driver's license.
Here are the changes that must be implemented to address this issue. (Download Desired Changes)
Does this law effect hunters? You bet it does. You can be in full compliance of local and state hunting laws, and still be a federal felon because your town forest happens to be within a 1000 feet of a school. (Read Article)
Finally, a few example maps of the school zones. It is important to note that the zones are actually much larger than displayed on the maps because the zones are measured from the school's property line, while most of the maps were created using circles with a radius of 1000 feet drawn from an approximation of the school's center. Please contact your representatives in the United States Congress and let them know that the Federal Gun Free School Zones Act endangers anyone who carries a firearm for self-defense and is simply unacceptable.
This map of San Francisco is made available on the City's Website
Los Angeles, California
Boise, Idaho (zoom)