OLR AMENDED BILL ANALYSIS HB 6003 (as amended by House "A" and "C")* AN ACT CONCERNING POSSESSION OF WEAPONS IN SCHOOLS SUMMARY: The bill makes it a criminal offense to possess a firearm on school grounds, unless exempt. Violation is a class D felony. (A class D felony is punishable by one to five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.) But if the violation is committed by anyone under age 16, it is a serious juvenile offense. The bill increases the drug free zone around school grounds from 1,000 to 1,500 feet. The bill applies to public and private elementary and secondary schools. *House Amendment "A" substitutes a class D felony for the original bill's mandatory two-year prison term; limits application of the prohibition to school grounds instead of within 1,500 of school property; applies the prohibition to possessing any firearm instead of only handguns, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns; specifies and expands the exemptions beyond just people with a legal right to possess firearms under state or federal law; makes violation by a child a serious juvenile offense; changes the effective date from July 1, 1992 to October 1, 1992; and removes a specific provision requiring illegally possessed weapons to be confiscated immediately by a "lawful" authority. *House Amendment "C" increases the drug free zone around schools from 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet. EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 1992 FURTHER EXPLANATION Exemptions The bill exempts the following from the prohibition against firearms on school grounds: 1. the holder of a valid permit to carry a firearm; 2. anyone who uses the firearm on the school property as part of a program approved by the school; 3. a person with whom, or with whose employer, the school has an agreement that allows the firearms; 4. a peace officer in his official capacity; and 5. a person with an unloaded firearm crossing school property for hunting or other lawful purposes, provided entry to the school property is not prohibited. Drug Free School Zone Current law imposes an additional penalty when someone who is not an enrolled student possesses certain illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of school grounds or uses, distributes, possesses, or manufactures drug paraphernalia within such distance from the school. The bill increases the distance to 1,500 feet. BACKGROUND The Federal Gun Free School Zones Act The Gun-Free School Zones Act (18 USC Sec.922 (q)) prohibits the possession or discharge of a firearm on or within 1,000 feet of private, parochial, or public school grounds. Violation is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Imprisonment is in addition to and must run consecutively to any other jail term. The act exempts the following, among others, from prosecution: people who possess firearms properly stored (unloaded and locked in gun racks) in motor vehicles or on private property that is not part of school grounds and law enforcement officers acting in their official capacities. The act also exempts people who use the firearms in school-approved programs. The act states that federal, state, and local authorities should encourage the posting of signs around school zones warning that firearm possession in a school zone is prohibited. Serious Juvenile Offenses The statutes define a "serious juvenile offense" (SJO) as one of a list of specific criminal acts, most of which to a certain degree involve violence or drugs. Crimes that are SJOs include murder, the more serious degrees of assault and sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, larceny, and various weapons charges. Juveniles charged with SJOs are subject to more rigorous procedures and consequences in the criminal justice system than those accused of other offenses. For example, when a detention center is at or above maximum population capacity, a juvenile charged with a SJO will be admitted and held and one charged with a regular offense will be released.