I write this post as a result of reading a recent news story about a parent in New Hampshire carrying a concealed handgun while waiting near a school to pick up his child (story here). From that story: “A federal law, Gun-Free Schools Zone Act, prohibits people from carrying a loaded gun, even if that person is properly licensed, within 1,000 feet of a public or parochial school.” Nope, not the law.
As more states and local governments allow school carry, the provisions of the GFSZA will once again become an issue. I was thus prompted to take a “refresher” look at the law (often ignored because it was (in an earlier version) held unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court). Here’s the current GFSZA statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2):
(vii) that is unloaded and is possessed by an 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.
Federal law [18 U.S.C. § 921(a)] provides the following definitions:
(25) The term “school zone” means — (A) in, or on the grounds of, a public, parochial or private school; or (B) within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of a public, parochial or private school.
(26) The term “school” means a school which provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under State law.
The exceptions are rather straightforward, most notable is that a person with a firearm permit/license is not prohibited, if the law of the state or subdivision complies with the requirement of 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2)(B)(ii), above. Most, but not all do. Of course, one must still look to state and/or local law for location permissions and restrictions. Compliance with the GFSZA or state/local law is not automatically lawful carry under the other.
- Can I carry while off-duty? No.
- Carry under H.R. 218/LEOSA? No, it does not override the GFSZA.
- What about if I am on-duty not acting in my “official capacity,” for example, I am picking up my teacher spouse for lunch. No.
- I am going to a teacher/parent meeting during school hours or after hours. I am “on-call” 24/7 and required to carry my duty weapon at all times when in public. No.
- I am properly state licensed and the state permits me to carry a firearm on school property as a licensed person. Yes, you may carry in a GFSZ even though you are not then acting in your LE “official capacity.”
- I am off-duty but responding to a law enforcement scenario at a school within the area of my sworn jurisdiction. Yes, you may do so armed under the GFSZA.
In summary: First check the GFSZA. If you get an exemption under it, check state and local law on rules for school carry. Parents of current students and sworn LEOs may get a special exemption which can be folded into a Federal one. If you are an active or retired LEO, get a state gun carry permit/license. If you are out of the state where you have a license/permit, see 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2)(B)(ii), above. (Get a nonresident permit/license; many who have opined on the point believe reciprocity is not expanded to the Federal GFSZA provision).
How about carry on a college or university? See state law and the rules of the institution.