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United States v. Lopez

Supreme Court of the United States

November 8, 1994, Argued ; April 26, 1995, Decided

No. 93-1260

Opinion

 [*551]  [**1626]  [***632]    CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

 In the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, Congress made it a federal offense "for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone." 18 U.S.C. § 922 [****4]  (q)(1)(A) (1988 ed., Supp. V). The Act neither regulates a commercial activity nor contains a requirement that the possession be connected in any way to interstate commerce. We hold that the Act exceeds the authority of Congress "to regulate Commerce . . . among the several States . . . ." U.S. Const., Art. I, § 8, cl. 3.

On March 10, 1992, respondent, who was then a 12th-grade student, arrived at Edison High School in San Antonio, Texas, carrying a concealed .38 caliber handgun and five bullets. Acting upon an anonymous tip, school authorities confronted respondent, who admitted that he was carrying the weapon. He was arrested and charged under Texas law with firearm possession on school premises. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 46.03(a)(1) (Supp. 1994). The next day, the state charges were dismissed after federal agents charged respondent by complaint with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(1)(A) (1988 ed., Supp. V). 2

 [****5]  A federal grand jury indicted respondent on one count of knowing possession of a firearm at a school zone, in violation of § 922(q). Respondent moved to dismiss his federal indictment on the ground that § 922(q) "is unconstitutional as it is beyond the power of Congress to legislate control over our public schools." The District Court denied the motion, concluding that § 922(q) "is a constitutional exercise of Congress' well-defined power to regulate activities in and affecting  [*552]  commerce, and the 'business' of elementary, middle and high schools . . . affects interstate commerce." App. to Pet. for Cert. 55a. Respondent waived his right to a jury trial. The District Court conducted a bench trial, found him guilty of violating § 922(q), and sentenced him to six months' imprisonment  [***633]  and two years' supervised release.

On appeal, respondent challenged his conviction based on his claim that § 922(q) exceeded Congress' power to legislate under the Commerce Clause. The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit agreed and reversed respondent's conviction. It held that, in light of what it characterized as insufficient congressional findings and legislative history, "section 922(q), in the full  [****6]  reach of its terms, is invalid as beyond the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause." 2 F.3d 1342, 1367-1368 (1993). Because of the importance of the issue, we granted certiorari, 511 U.S. 1029 (1994), and we now affirm.

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514 U.S. 549 *; 115 S. Ct. 1624 **; 131 L. Ed. 2d 626 ***; 1995 U.S. LEXIS 3039 ****; 63 U.S.L.W. 4343; 95 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3074; 8 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 752

UNITED STATES, PETITIONER v. ALFONSO LOPEZ, JR.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Disposition: 2 F.3d 1342, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

commerce, interstate commerce, commerce clause, regulation, schools, cases, manufacturing, commercial power, guns, interstate, federal government, wheat, violence, matters, Skills, substantial effect, powers, intrastate, agriculture, federal power, Training, Mining, limits, power of congress, school zone, violent crime, Resources, gun possession, effects, enact

Constitutional Law, Commerce Clause, Interstate Commerce, Prohibition of Commerce, Governments, Native Americans, Authority & Jurisdiction, International Trade Law, Authority to Regulate, General Overview, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce With Other Nations, Transportation Law, Federal Powers, Intrastate Commerce, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, State Powers, Federal Powers, Powers of Congress, Substantial Relations, Federal Government, US Congress, Channels of Commerce, Instrumentalities of Commerce, Tests, Criminal Law & Procedure, Weapons Offenses, Possession of Weapons, Unregistered Firearm, Elements, Legislation, Interpretation