To the Congress of the United States:
Today I am transmitting for your immediate consideration and passage the "Gun-Free School Zones Amendments Act of 1995." This Act will provide the jurisdictional element for the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 required by the Supreme Court's recent decision in United States v. Lopez.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court in Lopez held that the Congress had exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause by enacting the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, codified at 18 U.S.C. 922(q). The Court found that this Act did not contain the jurisdictional element that would ensure that the firearms possession in question has the requisite nexus with interstate commerce.
In the wake of that decision, I directed Attorney General Reno to present to me an analysis of Lopez and to recommend a legislative solution to the problem identified by that decision. 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 me 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 "moved in . . . commerce" before reaching their eventual possessor.
Furthermore, by also including the possibility of proving the offense by showing that 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.
The Attorney General has advised that this proposal does not require the Government to prove that a defendant had knowledge that the firearm " has moved in or the possession of such firearm otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce." The defendant must know only that he or she possesses the firearm.
I am committed to doing everything in my power to make schools places where young people can be secure, where they can learn, and where parents can be confident that discipline is enforced.
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. I urge the prompt and favorable consideration of this legislative proposal by the Congress.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
The White House,
May 10, 1995.