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Texas Republican Steve Stockman is searching for co-sponsors for a bill he introduced Jan. 3 that would repeal the federal law that prohibits firearms in school zones.
Stockman, a no-holds-barred conservative member of the 1994 freshman class who returned to the House this month after a 15-year hiatus, had been working with the conservative group Gun Owners of America to craft the legislation even before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 20 children and six staff members last month.
“Not only have so-called ‘gun-free school zones’ proven to be anything but that, they appear to have placed our children in even greater danger,” Stockman wrote in a Dear Colleague letter circulated Wednesday. “Co-sponsoring the Safe School Act is the first step toward protecting our children.”
The gun-free school zones law enacted in 1990 (PL 101-647) was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled it exceeded congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce. A second iteration from 1995 (PL 104-208) remains in effect. The law prohibits possession of a firearm on the campus of a public or private school or within 1,000 feet of the grounds.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., is the sole co-sponsor of Stockman’s bill (HR 35) thus far. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., introduced similar legislation (HR 133) on Jan. 4 to repeal the gun-free school zone regulation. Other conservatives, including Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, have voiced support for such proposals, but have not officially signed on to the legislation.
“The time has come to end the deadly experiment of disarming peaceable, law-abiding citizens near schools,” Stockman said.
At a news conference a week after the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association lambasted the gun-free zone law for making schools a target for “every insane killer.” The gun-rights group called on Congress to provide funding for armed police in all of the nation’s schools.
“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them,” said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president. “And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
Stockman likely faces an uphill battle in his quest for support. In 2007, when then-Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, first introduced legislation to repeal the gun-free school zone law, it didn’t garner a single co-sponsor and died in committee. Teachers unions have vigorously opposed proposals to put guns in schools or require teachers to be trained to operate a firearm.
Stockman’s is just one of numerous gun law changes that policy-makers are considering following the tragic elementary school shooting. Democrats have largely focused on gun control initiatives, including banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. is heading the administration’s gun violence task-force that will deliver recommendations on gun safety policies to President Barack Obama this month. Biden is meeting this week with the NRA and groups that represent gun safety advocates, hunters and other special interests. He said on Wednesday that the administration has determined that executive action that can be taken, but didn’t provide specifics.
John Gramlich contributed to this story.