U.S. v. Lopez


Congress passed The Gun-Free School Zones Act, which made it unlawful “for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm at a place that he knew or had reasonable cause to believe was a school zone.”  Defendant, a 12 year old, carried a weapon to school and was arrested pursuant to the Act.  Defendant sought to dismiss the action and argued that Congress had exceeded their constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce.  The District Court disagreed and denied his motion to dismiss, but the Appellate Court agreed, thereby invalidating the Act.


Whether Congress can regulate gun possession on school premises pursuant to the interstate commerce clause.


No, appellate decision affirmed.  Having a gun on school property is not related to interstate commerce.  Moreover, if the particular activities of this case were repeated in the aggregate, there would still be no substantial impact on interstate commerce.  The activity is an inherently local activity that would not support a larger body of economic activity related to interstate commerce.  There is no relevance to interstate commerce at all in terms of the student’s transportation or movement between state lines either.  Congress has relied too heavily on an indirect relation to support its authority to regulate a state matter.


The court cites three factors which determine whether Congress legitimately regulated pursuant to the commerce clause:  1. “the use of channels of interstate commerce” 2. Activities with a substantial relation to interstate commerce 3. Protection against obstructions to the free flow of interstate commerce.

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