The 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act — not to be confused with the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 — required public school systems to expel students for no less than one year if they were found in possession of a firearm on campus. The law, an NBC investigation shows, kicked off an era of zero-tolerance policies for student misbehavior, with punishments doled out for offenses ranging from fighting to “defiance.” Over the past decade, some states and districts softened their policies, particularly after the Obama administration found them discriminatory. But as students returned to campuses after the pandemic, amid a mounting mental health crisis among young people, the crackdown on student misbehavior saw a resurgence.
The legacy of the Gun-Free Schools Act presents another complexity: Disciplinary policies vary from state to state, meaning that kids and their parents’ ability to defend themselves from harsh punishments — which have long been imposed in deeply inequitable ways — depends on where they live. As NBC reports, even as many schools step back from expulsions and suspensions, racial disparities persist, and some students have few ways to object when they feel a punishment was unfair or biased.
What to Know Today
Two groups of lawmakers in Congress filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to uphold a decades-old law restricting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. The case is widely viewed as a test on the scope of last year’s Bruen decision. [Roll Call]
In 2019, New York Police Department officers shot and killed a man whom they alleged reached for a gun during a confrontation — and in the process, killed one of their own. The officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing, but new records show that investigators appeared to ignore video footage of the officers being commanded to “stop shooting,” and let police misstatements stand. [ProPublica]
Reforming gun laws on the national level is notoriously difficult, so some communities have taken it into their own hands. Lower Merion Township, a Philadelphia suburb, is one such community: In April, its Board of Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance limiting where gun businesses can operate. But now, thanks to Pennsylvania’s preemption law, that regulation is under threat. [NPR]
Younger Republicans are more likely to support gun restrictions than older members of their party, multiple polls released this year show, though most young members of the party still oppose restrictions. [Voice of America]
The 8th Circuit dealt another (albeit temporary) blow to a group of Republican-led states and gun rights advocates’ challenge to the Biden administration’s recent ghost gun regulation, ruling that the ATF can continue enforcement because the plaintiffs did not establish that they would be irreparably harmed by the measure. [Reuters]
Freddie Gray’s killing at the hands of Baltimore Police officers ignited racial justice protests across the country in 2015. But a new book reveals that much of what the public has believed about Gray’s death is incorrect — though prosecutors claimed he died because of a “rough ride” in a transport van, evidence shows that Gray was killed as a result of excessive force by officers, before he even entered the vehicle. [The Appeal]
Public Safety Experts Warn New York’s Crime-Fighting Strategy Could Backfire: As city leaders double down on policing amid a spike in shootings, a new idea is gaining hold among experts: Could less policing actually reduce gun violence? (June 2022)