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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson February 15, 2018

Bill that would ease gun-carrying rights in schools passed House in December

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged to eliminate gun-free zones at schools and military bases.

One thing we should clarify right off the bat: The Pentagon actually eased rules for carrying guns on military bases before President Barack Obama left office.

A Defense Department directive released on Nov. 18, 2016, said that commanders "may grant permission to (Defense Department) personnel requesting to carry a privately owned firearm (concealed or open carry) on DoD property for a personal protection purpose not related to performance of an official duty or status."

That doesn't go quite as far as Trump suggested, but it still represented a significant easing of the rules. However, since it occurred before Trump took office, we'll primarily rate this promise based on any changes during Trump's presidency that affect gun free zones in schools.

As we noted in our previous update, there have been some legislative efforts in this area.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., introduced a bill, the Safe Students Act, in the House to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, on Jan. 3, 2017.

Nine days later, the House referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. However, there have been no further developments on the bill since then. More strikingly, the bill has garnered only a total of five cosponsors in the succeeding year, all of them Republicans. In fact, no lawmaker has signed on as a cosponsor since early February 2017.

A more successful legislative push came from the the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017.

The headline provision of the bill would to allow qualified individuals to carry a concealed handgun into, or possess a concealed handgun in, another state as long as that state allows individuals to carry concealed firearms.

However, the impact of the law on the elements of Trump's promise is somewhat less sweeping.

Broadly, the bill says it would not supersede the laws of any state that restricts "the possession of firearms on any state or local government property, installation, building, base, or park."

Moreover, on the specific question of gun-carry rights in schools, the bill limits carrying rights to an "off-duty law enforcement officer" or a "qualified retired law enforcement officer" who is "authorized under such section to carry a concealed firearm."

On Dec. 6, 2017, the bill passed the House by a 231-198 margin. Only 14 Republicans voted against the bill, while just six Democrats voted for it.

After passage, the bill went to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Judiciary Committee. It has not yet advanced any further.

The fact that the House passed a bill that would loosen -- though not do away with -- gun restrictions in schools leads us to keep this promise at In the Works.

Our Sources

Gabrielle Healy
By Gabrielle Healy April 20, 2017

Bills introduced on congressional level

President Donald Trump vowed to eliminate gun-free zones on schools and military bases on his first day in office.

More than three months in, we haven't seen any movement on this promise from the executive branch.

When a reporter asked about it on Feb. 1, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had been "very active in terms of getting executive orders out."

"We're going to continue to move through this process, and I think we'll have further updates on where we are with respect to the rest of the EO process," he said.

There has been some interest on the congressional level.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., introduced a bill, the Safe Students Act, in the House to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, on Jan. 3.

On Jan. 12, the House referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, and there's been no further developments on the bill since then.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., also introduced a bill, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, that would allow gun owners to conceal and carry weapons in any public spaces that allow guns, regardless of their state residency.

A provision of that bill could undo part of the current law that creates gun-free zones in schools because it would exempt concealed carry permit holders from that law, according to The Trace.

The guns in schools issue also came up during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing. She suggested that an elementary school in rural Wyoming might need guns to protect students from external threats, like grizzly bears, so the decision to have firearms should be left up to local lawmakers. Wyoming has a policy banning weapons in elementary, middle and high school.

As we reported, eliminating gun-free zones in these areas represents a challenging endeavor, due in part to the confluence of federal and state laws that protect these areas.

We rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

Allison Graves
By Allison Graves January 20, 2017

Eliminate gun free zones at schools and military bases

Donald Trump has pledged to eliminate gun-free zones on his first day in office in order to keep the United States safe from mass shootings but it won't be easy.

"I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases," Trump said Jan. 8, 2016, at a rally in Burlington, Vt. "My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There's no more gun-free zones."

Trump clarified his original statement about carrying guns to schools on May 23,  telling CNN that resource officers or trained teachers should be the ones carrying guns.

It's highly unlikely Trump will be able to do this on his first day in office because of the overlapping federal, state and local laws that dictate gun-free zones.


Trump says eliminating gun-free zones in schools and military bases could prevent mass shootings.

"You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko?" Trump asked the Vermont crowd. "That's bait!"


In order to chip away at the federal laws, Trump would need Congress' help. But even this would only be one step of many.

In 1990, former Sen. Joe Biden introduced legislation known as the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990, which was included as a section in the Crime Control Act of 1990.

The gun-free zone initiative prohibited individuals having or taking out a gun within 1,000 feet of public or private school grounds. Congress passed the act, and it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.

The Supreme Court struck down the gun-free zone act in 1995, after it decided the legislation encroached on states' rights. But, the act was quickly changed, and an amended version was adopted in the section of the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997.

Congress would have to repeal the most current "gun-free zone act," or pass a bill that would eliminate the restrictions. Even if that happened, it would only be a step in the right direction, not a complete victory for Trump.

"I think it highly unlikely that Congress will move to repeal this law," said Robert Spitzer, a SUNY Cortland political science professor. "The gun lobby has other, higher priorities (No. 1 is the state handgun permit reciprocity bill)."

Trump also could encourage agencies not to enforce the current laws on the book, work with Congress to pass legislation to weaken the law, but not repeal it, or encourage private civilian gun carrying like he did during his campaign.


Trump's efforts to slash regulations and laws that govern gun-free zones will be an uphill battle. Rules that prohibit guns in school zones are written into federal law and would require Congress to overturn the law. In addition, states have their own regulations and laws against firearms in schools.

"Theoretically, Congress could try and wipe away all these state provisions, but it would be a logistical, political and legal nightmare that would also upend traditional federalism standards," Spitzer said.

John Lott, president of the pro-gun Crime Prevention Research Center, said federal legislation has pre-empted state rules before, meaning there is plenty of precedent for rules to be passed federally. That being said, Congress hasn't introduced any bills.

"None of the bills so far being offered by Republicans on reciprocity currently propose changes in federal law to override state rules on where one can carry a permit," Lott said. "Yet, it is surely possible for those bills to be changed."

And, as for military bases, that's basically out of Trump's control. The Department of Defense mandates the gun-free rule, so at best he could convince the defense secretary to reverse the rule, but that's unlikely, too.


Trump says he can accomplish this on his first day in office, but given everything that would need to be done, this seems unlikely.

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