St. Mary's Law Journal


Larry E. Gee


This Comment argues the federal system must be preserved and the Supreme Court should build upon the interpretation of the Commerce Clause in United States v. Lopez to reinstate the Framers’ vision of federalism. The social justifications for the Court’s expansive construction of the Commerce Clause during the past sixty years no longer existed to justify the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Part II of this Comment traces the background of Commerce Clause jurisprudence, focusing on social justifications for traditional rubber stamping of Congress’s broad exercises of power. Part III reviews the Fifth Circuit’s reasoning in deeming the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional. Part IV summarizes the Court’s majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions in Lopez. Part V analyzes federal gun control efforts and argues the Court was justified in holding Congress exceeded its powers when it passed the Gun-Free School Zones Act. Finally, Part VI concludes the Court should analyze congressional findings of fact more discriminately in deciding what constitutes interstate commerce. Additionally, the Court should generally allow the states to freely exercise their traditional regulatory powers without threat of federal preemption.

The Court sent a clear message with its decision in Lopez: Congress should restrain its recent penchant for federalizing crime to pacify alarmed voters. The most realistic framework for Commerce Clause jurisprudence is one based in fact. Congressional findings must be present and show some substantial impact on interstate commerce exists before allowing Congress to regulate a local activity. Such a test would allow the Framers’ vision of federalism to operate as originally intended. Most importantly, however, individual state legislatures could once again serve as the proving grounds for the substantive social policies that will guide our nation into the twenty-first century. The Court’s decision in Lopez is only the first step.


St. Mary's University School of Law