November 5, 2001

Conference Committee Clarifies Gun-Free School Zones Question

Last week, the House-Senate Education Conference Committee officially settled the question as to whether home school families could be considered in violation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1996 with a definite, "No."

In a news release, House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) said, "The conference agreement codifies the exemption for home schools in the Gun-Free Schools Act, clarifying that the term 'school' does not include a home school, regardless of whether a home school is treated as a private school under state law."

This agreement was part of the committee's work to reconcile H.R. 1-The No Child Left Behind Act with its Senate counterpart, S.1.

Many home schoolers have been concerned that they could be charged with violation of the Gun-Free School Zones Act simply because they possess a gun in their own home. Part of their concern stems from conflicting interpretations by federal agencies. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) asserted that home schools operating under state laws are "schools" as defined by the Gun-Free School Zones Act. But in 1997, the Justice Department stated that it, "does not interpret the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1996 to apply . . . to individuals who home school their own children and have…a firearm in their residence."

"Home School Legal Defense Association is glad to have this issue on the way to being settled," said National Center for Home Education Director Tom Washburne. "Unclear law can have bad consequences."

HSLDA encourages members to continue to pray as the Education Conference Committee proceeds with ratification of H.R. 1 and S. 1. Many issues still remain unresolved, including a controversial expansion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Committee Chairmen Boehner and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) have promised President Bush that they will pass an education bill before the end of the year.