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CRM 1-499

115. Violence At Schools

In 1989, eleven percent of violent crime incidents occurred in schools or on school property. Violent Crime in the United States, United States Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (March 1991). Fifteen percent of students said their school had gangs. Id. In 1987, an estimated 400,000 students took guns to school. Id. A newer study estimates that more than 100,000 children bring guns to school each day, and that another 160,000 children stay home each day out of fear of guns and violence. Joseph B. Clough, Solutions Without Guns, National School Safety Center Newsjournal 29 (Fall 1994). In 1990, the Centers for Disease Control sampled high school students concerning their use of weapons. H. Snyder and M. Sickmund, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, supra. About one in twenty said they carried a firearm, usually a handgun. Id. Students who reported carrying weapons four or more times made up nine percent of all students and accounted for seventy-one percent of weapon-carrying incidents. Id. A recent survey by USA Weekend of twelfth graders found that students were more scared at school than they were four years ago, fifty percent know someone who switched schools to feel safer, forty-three percent said they avoided the restrooms, and sixty-three percent believed they would learn more if they felt safer. Also, studies show that the more seriously involved in drugs a youth is, the more seriously that juvenile is involved in delinquent conduct. Stuart Greenbaum, Drugs, Delinquency, and Other Data, Juvenile Justice Journal of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention 2 (Spring/Summer 1994).

Title 21, United States Code, Section 860, provides enhanced criminal penalties for those who illegally distribute, possess with intent to distribute, or manufacture a controlled substance in or on, or within 1,000 feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary, vocational, or secondary school or a public or private college, junior college, or university, or a playground, or housing facility owned by a public housing authority, or within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility. The statute also provides a mandatory minimum imprisonment term of not less than one year for violators. 21 U.S.C.A. § 860(a) (West Supp. 1995). There are additional enhancements for repeat offenders. 21 U.S.C.A. § 860(b) (West Supp. 1995).

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, added another group of criminals to the enhancement provisions under 21 U.S.C.A. § 860. One who is at least twenty-one years of age, and who knowingly and intentionally influences another under eighteen to violate Section 860, or influences another under eighteen to assist in avoiding detection or apprehension by law enforcement of any crime under Section 860, faces up to triple punishment. 21 U.S.C.A. § 860(c) (West Supp. 1995).

It is a federal offense to possess a firearm in a school zone. 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(g) (West Supp. 1995). However, the Supreme Court ruled the Gun-Free School Zone Act was unconstitutional as exceeding Congress' commerce clause authority in United States v. Lopez, U.S. , 115 S.Ct. 1624, ___ L. Ed.2d ___ (1995). Prior to this decision, Congress amended Section 922(g) by expressly stating in the statute the national need to regulate firearms around schools and its nexus to commerce. 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(g)(1) (West Supp. 1995). Whether this change will accommodate the ruling made the basis for the Lopez decision is yet to be finally determined.