Friday, August 25, 2023

Montana Resident Detained by Federal Agents for Firearm Possession in School Zone



Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives apprehended Gabriel Cowan Metcalf on August 23, 2023, for having a firearm within a federally designated "gun-free school zone," which bans firearms within a thousand feet of a school. This legislation, first ruled unconstitutional in 1994, has been amended slightly and reenacted in 1994 and 1996, but has not faced Supreme Court review since the landmark Heller decision in 2008. Subsequent rulings, including the Bruen decision in 2022, indicate that this school zone act may be fundamentally unconstitutional.

In a courtroom appearance, Metcalf was charged with possession of a firearm in a school zone and could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, along with a $100,000 fine and three years of supervised release if convicted. Between August 2 and 17, local law enforcement had received numerous calls about Metcalf, who resides at 430 Broadwater Ave., carrying a gun while walking on the sidewalk near Broadwater Elementary School. As this location is within 1,000 feet of the school, it qualifies as a "school zone" under federal law.

"The government alleged in court documents that from Aug. 2 to 17, the Billings Police Department received multiple calls and weapons complaints regarding Metcalf, who lives at 430 Broadwater Ave., walking on the sidewalk and around the area carrying a firearm. Broadwater Elementary School is directly across the street from Metcalf’s residence. The sidewalk and streets in front of Metcalf’s residence are public property within 1,000 feet from the school and are a “school zone” as defined in federal statutes."

It's important to note that Metcalf doesn't have a known criminal history, making his arrest a compelling case for challenging the federal "Gun-Free School Zone Act" on Second Amendment and Commerce Clause grounds. Legal organizations that advocate for Second Amendment rights may find this case to be an opportune moment to contest the constitutionality of the act. The area within a thousand feet of a school is not specifically listed as a "sensitive area" in historical records pertaining to the time when the Second Amendment was ratified. This federal law essentially undermines the constitutional right to bear arms.

Prosecutors have historically been cautious in pressing charges under the "Gun-Free School Zone Act" due to its legally ambiguous status. As Metcalf's case proceeds, there may be attempts to penalize him through legal procedures, such as imposing high bail or pushing for a plea deal.

Further details on the case are expected to be released soon.

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