U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, who returned to Congress to represent his suburban Houston district last week after a 16-year absence, wasted no time courting controversy when he publicly called for John Boehner to be removed as House speaker. He's made his second foray into the headlines with a call to repeal the federal law prohibiting loaded weapons from being carried in school zones.
He's at it again. CQ Roll Call reports that Stockman introduced a bill on day one calling for the repeal of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990, which prohibits citizens from carrying a weapon near schools.
"Not only have so-called 'gun-free school zones' proven to be anything but that, they appear to have placed our children in even greater danger," Stockman wrote to colleagues in a letter circulated Wednesday. "Co-sponsoring the Safe School Act is the first step toward protecting our children."
He added later, "The time has come to end the deadly experiment of disarming peaceable, law-abiding citizens near schools."
Hostility to the law is nothing new. The Houston Chronicle reports that Ron Paul tried, and failed, to repeal it back in 2007, and there remains a legitimate question of whether the law represents congressional overreach. The original version of the law was overturned in 1995 by the Supreme Court on the grounds that the legislature had no authority under the Commerce Clause to enact a law forbidding an activity that occurred within a single state. Congress, at the direction of the Clinton Administration, subsequently passed a rather legalistic workaround by basically asserting that a gun is transported across state lines before it is purchased "or otherwise affects" interstate commerce
But the calls for repeal post-Sandy Hook are of a different nature. Stockman, who's backed by Gunowners of America, and others are arguing for repeal on safety grounds. As in, if only a citizen had been allowed to carry and fire his or her gun, people like Adam Lanza could be stopped in their tracks. There are claims that school shootings have quadrupled since the passage of the law. That may well be true, though it's hard to see how the Gun Free School Zones Act had any effect on that.
In any case, this is the trigger-happy gun debate we're having. It's not going to subside anytime soon.