School is back in session! However, this school year has started off quite differently than in years past due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many schools in Illinois are offering alternative means for education other than the traditional on-campus student learning. Whether your student is returning to campus, attending virtual classes, or a hybrid of on-campus and virtual classes, we want you to stay safe and legal this school year. With that in mind, let’s review the laws regarding firearms in school zones.
Firearms in School Zones
First, let’s look at how Illinois state law treats firearms in school zones. To possess a firearm in Illinois, one must obtain a valid Firearm Owners Identification (“FOID”) card. However, to carry that firearm in public, a Concealed Carry License (“CCL”) is required. The Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act specifically prohibits a CCL holder from knowingly carrying a firearm on or into any building, real property, and parking area under the control of a public or private elementary or secondary school, pre-school, or childcare facility. 430 ILCS 66/65. This prohibition applies whether school is in session or out with limited exceptions, such as for those who possess a CCL and remain in their vehicle while in a school zone.
We must also consider federal law when it comes to school zones. The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 prohibits individuals from knowingly possessing a firearm in a school zone unless they fall within one of the exceptions found in 18 U.S.C. § 922(q)(2). One such exception is if the individual possesses a carry license that is issued by the state in which the school zone is located. For example, under federal law, an individual who possesses a concealed carry license issued by the State of Illinois would be allowed to possess a firearm in a school zone located in Illinois. Additionally, under the Gun-Free School Zones Act, a person without a license issued by the state in which the school zone is located who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing a firearm may possess a firearm in a school zone so long as the firearm is unloaded and either locked in a container or locked in a firearm rack inside a vehicle.
The fact that children may not be present in the school due to COVID-19 does not exempt you from Gun-Free School Zone laws. Even the schools that have decided to use only “virtual” teaching methods will have teachers, employees, etc. present and the laws pertaining to gun-free school zones will be in effect.
What if the School is in a Church?
In Illinois, a church, temple, or any place of worship is generally not a gun-free zone unless they choose to be. If the church (or other religious organization) also houses a school, preschool, or childcare facility, then the building which houses the school becomes a gun-free zone and the church must post the required gun-free zone sign to give notice to those entering, pursuant to 430 ILCS 66/65(d).
Please be careful out there, and if you have any questions about your Second Amendment rights in Illinois, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.
The preceding should not be construed as legal advice nor the creation of an attorney-client relationship. This is not an endorsement or solicitation for any service. Your situation may be different, so please contact your attorney regarding your specific circumstances. Because the laws, judges, juries, and prosecutors vary from location to location, similar or even identical facts and circumstances to those described in this presentation may result in significantly different legal outcomes. This presentation is by no means a guarantee or promise of any particular legal outcome, positive, negative, or otherwise.