THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 17, October 29, 1996.

What Supreme Court Ruling?

By Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Article I Section 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states. ..."
         Part of America's economic success is certainly attributable to the historic interstate "free trade zone" thus created.
         But in this century, Congress has taken to pretending these few words grant it the power to circumvent virtually any restriction on its power.
         One of the most onerous examples was the enactment by the 1990 Democratic congress of so-called federal "gun-free school zones," outlawing by federal statute the possession of firearms by otherwise law-abiding Americans within a fixed distance of a schoolhouse or school property.
         In one of its finest decision of recent years, the United States Supreme Court, ruling in the 1995 case U.S. vs. Lopez, said that is nonsense. The "commerce clause" does not permit Washington to regulate anything that's bought or sold, anywhere in the land, if the main thrust of their action does nothing to promote peaceful, duty-free interstate commerce.
         Furious at this minor rebuff to his now-almost-limitless power, and demonstrating the scorn in which he holds his own oath to protect and defend the Constitution, President Clinton immediately ordered Attorney General Janet Reno to "find a way around" the Lopez ruling.
         Now they think they have.
         Wedged into omnibus spending bill HR 3610, signed into law by the president late on the night of Sept. 30, is a page called Treasury-Postal Section 657.
         Once again, we read that "Before the sale of a firearm, the gun, its component parts, ammunition and the raw materials from which they are made have considerably moved in interstate commerce," blah blah blah.
         Once again, citing the powers of the "interstate commerce clause," this section -- also known as the Kohl amendment -- declares "It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm that has moved in interstate commerce at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone."
         Exemptions are granted if the owner has a government license for the gun, if the gun is not loaded and is in a locked container or locked rack, or if the owner is "traversing school premises" for the purpose of going hunting, providing the hunter has the prior permission of school authorities.
         Gun rights groups like Virginia's Gun Owners of America quickly mobilized, warning in an Oct. 3 press release that -- given that authorities in the past have extended "school zones" 1000 feet from school property -- this bill "sets up thousands of gun ban zones across roads statewide where local police or the BATF can arrest unsuspecting drivers who have a firearm in the car. ... Anyone without a pistol carry license driving through a zone with an unloaded firearm, that is not in a locked container or rack, faces five years in prison. ..."
         Those who defend the bill told me this week that the old bill did indeed establish 1,000-foot "zones" around schools, but that this new "try" bans guns only on school property, not neighboring private property.
         However, the language of the law as reported in the Sept. 28 Congressional Record still uses the term "zones," without any limiting definition. And even Capitol Hill supporters admit "It isn't clear" whether the law would allow random stops and gun searches of cars driving on city streets near a school.
         Anyway, the point of the 1995 Supreme Court Lopez ruling was that this is not a federal concern. The separate states are perfectly capable of outlawing guns on schools grounds if they want to. Many already have.
         So, why such a poisonous Halloween present, from a Republican Congress?
         "All of these things were Clinton administration wants and desires, and I think you had a Clinton administration that was willing to shut down the government and blame us again," explained a high-level Republican congressional staffer who would only speak off the record.
         "So we just had to swallow hard and accept a lot more spending than we wanted," the staffer told me. "We've just lost the PR battle over these shutdowns."
         One proposed "fix" is to make the budget resolution -- now non-binding -- into a binding outline which the president would have to sign in April or May, making it harder to shovel so much unexamined manure into spending bills at the last minute. Congressman Chris Cox has proposed such a measure.
         But in the short run, all that can probably be done is to retain congressfolk who voted against HR 3610 -- representatives like Barton, Coleman, Hall and Stockman of Texas, Barcia of Michigan, Chabot and Kaptur of Ohio, and Burr and Coble of North Carolina. That and, of course, to defeat gun-grabbers who sneak in such "stealth" assaults on the right of law-abiding citizens to carry a loaded firearm for self-defense in the first place -- characters like Schumer, Feinstein, Kohl, Kennedy, Lautenberg, and Clinton.


Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.


Imagine a government bent on sharing its sensitive, caring, environmentally friendly ways with an entire universe. Then imagine the army it needs. CLD - Collective Landing Detachment. Dark military SF. By Victor Milan. From AvoNova.



Next to advance to the next article, or Previous to return to the previous article, or Index to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 17, October 29, 1996.