From Congressional Record S7920-7921
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, with my colleagues Senators Specter, Simon, Feinstein, Bradley, Lautenberg, Chafee, and Kerrey, we rise today to introduce the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995. This common-sense measure, which replaces the original Gun Free School Zones Act, is needed to send a strong message to teachers, State law enforcement officers and State prosecutors: the Federal Government stands behind you and will support you in getting guns out of our school grounds.
Let me begin by reminding you that the original version of this bill passed by unanimous consent in 1990. The measure was kept in conference where any one member's objection could have struck the bill. That conference was attended by the senior members of the Judiciary Committee, among them Senators Biden, Hatch, Thurmond, Simpson, and Kennedy. It was signed into law by then-President Bush. It is a measure that was supported by all of us. And we should continue to support it.
But in April, a sharply divided Supreme Court struck down the original Gun-Free School Zones Act in the case of United States versus Lopez. It did so on the grounds that the commerce clause of the Constitution did not support the act. As long as we can address the Supreme Court's concerns, there is no reason why the decision should alter the support this bill had in 1990.
The original act made it a Federal crime to knowingly bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a school or to fire a gun in these zones, with carefully crafted exceptions. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995 does exactly what the old act did. However, it adds a requirement that the prosecutor prove as part of each prosecution that the gun moved in or affected interstate or foreign commerce.
That is the only change to the legislative language of the original bill. The only change. We place only a minor burden on prosecutors while simply and plainly assuring the constitutionality of the act.
The goal of this bill is simple: to heed the Supreme Court's decision regarding Federal power and yet to continue the fight against school violence. The Lopez decision cannot be used as an excuse for complacency.
Mr. President, this bill is a practical approach to the national epidemic of gun violence plaguing our education system. In 1990, the Centers For Disease Control found that 1 in 20 students carried a gun in a 30-day period. Three years later, it was 1 in 12. Even worse, the National Education Association estimates that 100,000 kids bring guns to school every day. How can Congress turn its back on our children when their safety is being threatened on a daily basis?
My home State, Wisconsin, is not immune to this wave of violence. According to Gerald Mourning, the former director of school safety for Milwaukee, `[K]ids who did their fighting with their fists, and perhaps knives, are now settling their arguments with guns.' In the 1993-94 school year half of the students expelled from the Milwaukee Public Schools were thrown out for bringing a gun to school. In Dane County, WI, the number of juvenile weapons offenses tripled--from 75 in 1989 to 220 in 1993.
The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1995 is a simple, straightforward, effective and construction approach to this problem. In the Lopez decision, the Supreme Court held that the original act exceeded Congress' commerce clause power because it did not adequately tie guns found in school zones to interstate commerce. Much as I disagree with the 5 to 4 decision and strongly agree with the dissenters--Justices Souter, Stevens, Breyer, and Ginsburg--our new legislation will clearly pass muster under the majority's Lopez test. By requiring that the prosecutor prove that the gun brought to school `moved in or affected interstate commerce,' the act is a clear exercise of Congress' unquestioned power to regulate interstate activities. In fact, the Lopez decision itself suggested that requiring an explicit connection between the gun and interstate commerce in each prosecution would assure the constitutionality of the act.