School districts are no longer authorized to grant permission to persons to carry firearms in school zones and on school campuses, closing a longstanding loophole under the California Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 (Penal Code § 626.9). Now, with certain limited exceptions, no one is permitted to possess a firearm in a school zone or on a school campus.
The Act originally provided that no person could possess a firearm on or within 1,000 feet of a school campus, also known as a “school zone.” As originally enacted and later amended, the Act included certain exceptions that allowed possession of a firearm within a school zone. One exception allowed a school district superintendent or designee to grant permission to any person to possess a firearm within an otherwise-prohibited school zone area. Coupled with the passage of Assembly Bill 707 in 2015, which amended the Act to allow concealed-carry weapons (CCW) permit holders to possess firearms within school zones (though notably not on school campuses), a recent trend emerged in California where a small number of school districts permitted school employees to possess firearms on school campuses.
Assembly Bill 424 halts this practice by eliminating the provision under the Act that allowed school superintendents or designees to grant permission to carry firearms in a school zone. State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty authored AB 424 to address the trend toward armed school employees. In an interview with Capital Public Radio, McCarty noted the practice “really hadn’t taken off across California” in that out of 1,000 school districts “[an estimated] less than 10 were implementing this. But having cafeteria workers, teachers, [and] principals roaming the campus with a firearm just didn’t make sense.” Governor Brown signed AB 424 in October, and its provisions went into effect January 1, 2018.
Although AB 424 eliminates superintendents’ permissive authority, other exceptions under the Act still allow for the possession of firearms in school zones. For example, AB 707 prohibits CCW permit holders from bringing firearms on campus, but permits them to possess firearms within 1,000 feet of a school campus. Other exceptions allow unloaded firearms in school zones if they are in locked containers or locked vehicle trunks, and allow certain persons engaged in commercial activities and peace officers, among others, to possess firearms in school zones. AB 424 also amends the Act to permit districts to maintain firearms on school campuses as part of sanctioned shooting sports or activities and activities of a state-certified hunter education program.
As occurred with the passage of AB 707 two years ago, AB 424 may generate questions from employees, students, and parents. To ensure compliance with the Act and campus safety, district officials should consider contacting legal counsel when responding to these questions.