March 28, 2010
United States Vs. Lopez (1995)
Before I can appropriately discuss the opinion given by the US Supreme Court Justices; I feel that at first I must explain the background of what happened and the question that was brought before the justices of the US Supreme Court and the facts of the case. During this paper I will try to give some background information as well as the various opinions related to this issue. I will attempt to analyze and discuss the overall final outcome as issued by the courts in 1995.
On March 10, 1992 Alfonzo Lopez Jr., who was then a 12th-grade student (senior), arrived at Edison high School in San Antonio, Texas, carrying on his person a concealed .38 caliber handgun and five bullets. Acting on an anonymous tip, the school authorities confronted Alfonzo, who readily admitted to having the weapon. He was arrested and charged under Texas law with firearm possession on school property. The next day the state charges were dropped and federal agents charged Alfonzo with federal charges of violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.
The question that was brought before the courts: Is the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, forbidding individuals from knowingly carrying a gun in a school zone, unconstitutional because it exceeds the power of Congress to legislate under the Commerce Clause? (The Oyez Project, 2010). One of the most important sections of Article I is section 8. It carefully lists the powers the Framers wished the new Congress to possess. These specified or enumerated powers contain many key provisions that had been denied to the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. For example, one of the major weaknesses of the Articles was Congress’s lack of authority to deal with trade wars. The Constitution remedied this problem by authorizing Congress to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” Congress was also given the authority to coin money. Enumerated Powers are defined as Seventeen specific powers granted to Congress under Article I, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution; these powers include taxation, coinage of money, regulation of commerce, and the authority to provide for a national defense (O'Connor & Sabato, 2008).
The facts behind the case are: Alfonzo Lopez Jr., a 12th grade high school student, carried a concealed weapon into his high school in San Antonio, Texas. He was charged under Texas law with firearm possession on school premises. After being charged under state law, the next day, the state charges were dismissed by federal court . Federal agents charged Lopez with violating a federal criminal statute, the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (from here on out referred to as the act). The act forbids "any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that [he] knows...is a school zone." Lopez was found guilty following a bench trial and sentenced to six months' imprisonment and two years' supervised release. "The District Court denied his motion to dismiss the indictment, concluding that 922(q) is a constitutional exercise of Congress' power to regulate activities in and affecting commerce (FindLaw®,2010). Later the Court of Appeals held that, taking into account of what is characterized as inadequate congressional conclusions and legislative history, 922(q) is invalid as beyond Congress' power under the Commerce Clause. Alfonso Lopez Jr. (here on out known as the respondent) and his legal team petitioned the Court of Appeals to dismiss the charges bases on the Act exceeds Congress' Commerce Clause authority.
In no rational logic can the connection be made between the possession of a gun or any firearm in a school zone and economic activities affecting commerce. Section 922(q) is a criminal statute that by its terms has nothing to do with "commerce" or any other type of economic enterprise, no matter how broadly the terms of Section 922(q)...