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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » United States v. Lopez

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In 1990, Congress enacted the Gun-Free School Zones Act. This law made it a federal crime “for any individual knowingly to possess a firearm” within 1,000 feet of a school zone. The law did not purport to regulate any commercial activity. Additionally, the government did not need to show that the firearm had traveled in interstate commerce — the so-called jurisdictional hook.

In March 1992, Alfonso Lopez carried a concealed handgun into Edison High School in San Antonio. Initially, the high school senior was charged with violating a Texas law that banned the possession of firearms in schools. The next day, the state charges were dismissed after federal agents charged Lopez with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act. He was tried and found guilty. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit declared the statute unconstitutional.

The United States appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

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