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The California legislature has passed a "gun-free zone'' bill that would make it a felony to carry a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school or college campus.

A spokesman said last week that Gov. Pete Wilson had not yet decided whether he would sign the bill, which is opposed by gun owners' groups.

The bill calls for a prison sentence of two to five years for carrying a gun in a school zone, and a three-to-seven-year sentence for firing a weapon in such a zone. Fifteen states have similar laws.

The measure is intended to supplement a federal law that is under challenge in federal courts, where opponents have argued that the federal goverment does not have the power to restrict gun possession near schools. With federal appeals courts split on the measure, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to settle the issue.

Governor Wilson recently signed into law another bill enacted as a school-safety measure. The new law allowing districts to require students to wear uniforms is part of an effort to bar gang-related clothing from schools.

The law also sets standards and procedures for districts interested in establishing such dress codes.

Homeless Students

Homeless children in Illinois will be guaranteed the right to choose where they want to attend school under a law signed earlier this month by Gov. Jim Edgar.

The new law, which will go into effect in January, permits students who live in homeless shelters or other temporary arrangements to continue attending school in the district of their last permanent address.

Any costs incurred to transport such children will be split by the home district and the district where the child is temporarily residing, a spokesman for the Governor said.

State officials believe the law is the first such statute in the country.

Seat-Belt Flap

Leo Klagholz, New Jersey's education commissioner, is drawing fire for his decision to review a new seat-belt law.

The law, which took effect Sept. 8, aims to insure that all bus-riding students buckle up.

Currently, less than half of the state's school buses have safety belts. Peter O'Hagan, the director of the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety, said that all buses will be equipped within two years.

The new law requires students to use belts when they are provided. Bus drivers are expected to enforce it, and districts are to assess fines and penalties.

Mr. Klagholz opposes penalties, however, preferring to concentrate on promoting safety instead of punishing districts, according to Faith Sarafin, a spokeswoman for the state education department.

Mr. Klagholz's decision to commission a study of the law's implementation and effectiveness will not change its requirements. But the announcement spurred a storm of criticism.

Phyllis Scheps, a legislative adviser to the state P.T.A., argued that research has already shown that safety belts do save lives.

Vol. 14, Issue 04

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