Clinton Letter Regarding GFSZA
Letter Written to Congress by President William J. Clinton Regarding the Addition of a
Jurisdictional Element to Satisfy US Supreme Court Ruling
To the Congress of the United States:
Today I am transmitting for your immediate consideration and passage the “Gun-Free School Zones
Amendments Act of 1995.” This Act will provide the jurisdictional element for the Gun-Free School
Zones Act of 1990 required by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Lopez.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court in Lopez held that the Congress had exceeded its authority under the
Commerce Clause by enacting the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, codified at 18 U.S.C. 922(q).
The Court found that this Act did not contain the jurisdictional element that would ensure that the
firearms possession in question has the requisite nexus with interstate commerce.
In the wake of that decision, I directed Attorney General Reno to present to me an analysis of Lopez
and to recommend a legislative solution to the problem identified by that decision. Her legislative
recommendation is presented in this proposal.
The legislative proposal would amend the Gun-Free School Zones Act by adding the requirement that
the Government prove that the firearm has “moved inor the possession of such firearm otherwise
affects interstate or foreign commerce.”
The addition of this jurisdictional element would limit the Act’s “reach to a discrete set of firearm
possessions that additionally have an explicit connection with or effect on interstate commerce,” as the
Court stated in Lopez, and thereby bring it within the Congress’ Commerce Clause authority.
The Attorney General reported to me that this proposal would have little, if any, impact on the ability of
prosecutors to charge this offense, for the vast majority of firearms have “moved in . . . commerce”
before reaching their eventual possessor.
Furthermore, by also including the possibility of proving the offense by showing that the possession of
the firearm “otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce,” this proposal would leave open the
possibility of showing, under the facts of a particular case, that although the firearm itself may nothave
“moved in . . . interstate or foreign commerce,” its possession nonetheless has a sufficient nexus to
The Attorney General has advised that this proposaldoes not require the Government to prove that a
defendant had knowledge that the firearm ” has moved in or the possession of such firearm otherwise
affects interstate or foreign commerce.” The defendant must know only that he or she possesses the
I am committed to doing everything in my power to make schools places where young people can be
secure, where they can learn, and where parents canbe confident that discipline is enforced.
I pledge that the Administration will do our part to help make our schools safe and the neighborhoods
around them safe. We are prepared to work immediately with the Congress to enact this legislation. I
urge the prompt and favorable consideration of thislegislative proposal by the Congress.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
The White House,
May 10, 1995.