United States v. Lopez (1995)

In 1990 the Gun-Free School Zones Act was enacted, prohibiting any individual from possessing a firearm in a school zone. A 12th grader, Alfonzo Lopez, arrived to school with a concealed weapon, upon which he was later arrested and charged the possession of the weapon on school grounds.

The issue in this case was whether or not the act exceeded Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause.

The Court held, in a 5-4 decision, that the Act was unconstitutional saying that “the power to regulate Commerce is “the power to regulate; that is, to prescribe the rule by which commerce is to be governed. This power, like all others vested in Congress, is complete in itself, may be exercised to its utmost extent, and acknowledges no limitations, other than are prescribed in the constitution.”

The activity for which Congress wants to exercise its commerce power must have a substantial effect on commerce itself. “First, the channels of interstate commerce. Second, the instrumentalists of interstate commerce. Third, activities having a substantial effect upon interstate commerce. In the instant case, only the third category applies. In order for the statute to be deemed valid, the activity must substantially affect interstate commerce. The Act is a criminal statute, which does not regulate economic activity. In passing the Act, Congress banned possession of a gun that has never traveled in, or affected, interstate commerce. Congress provided no findings in the statute showing possession of guns in schools affected commerce.”

Annotated External Links

“United States v. Lopez.” Oyez. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.



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