There are three broad categories of activity that Congress may regulate under its commerce power, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3. First, Congress may regulate the use of the channels of interstate commerce. Second, Congress is empowered to regulate and protect the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, or persons or things in interstate commerce, even though the threat may come only from intrastate activities. Finally, Congress' commerce authority includes the power to regulate those activities having a substantial relation to interstate commerce, i.e., those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.
Respondent was convicted of violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (Act), 18 U.S.C.S. § 922(q)(1)(A) after carrying a concealed handgun and bullets to school. The district court, denying respondent's motion to dismiss the indictment, concluded that the Act was a constitutional exercise of Congress' power to regulate activities in and affecting commerce, and that the business of elementary, middle, and high schools affected interstate commerce. The appellate court reversed the conviction. The Supreme Court of the United States upheld the reversal.
Could the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 be used as the basis for respondent’s conviction for bringing handgun and bullets to school?
The Act was invalid because it was beyond the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3. The Act had nothing to do with commerce or any economic activity, and, therefore, could not be sustained as a regulation of activity arising out of or connected with a commercial transaction, which when viewed in the aggregate, substantially affected interstate commerce.