Guns On USPS Property: Do Not Trust Headlines or Press Releases

United States Postal Service USPS post office
Courtesy United States Postal Service

It’s always a bad idea to get your legal advice from the interwebs. While I’d like to think that that news websites (including this one) are a better source for information than social media, you still need to do your own homework and talk to your own lawyer. Why? Because even the most trusted news sources don’t tell you the whole story in their headlines. And most writers aren’t lawyers. Journalists — mainstream or otherwise — make lots of mistakes and some writers will intentionally muddy the waters.

That’s happened recently with a Florida court decision regarding carrying firearms on US Postal Service property. Reuters, for example, ran a story with this headline: “Ban on guns in post offices is unconstitutional, US judge rules.” From The Hill: “Federal judge rules ban on firearms in post offices unconstitutional.”

On the surface — and that’s about as far as most people read — it looks like you’re now totally good to go in carrying your concealed carry gun at the local post office, right? The truth, however, is more complex.

As I said earlier, you need to check with your own lawyer, but I feel confident sharing my take on this because I’m recommending you play it safe. You can’t get in into legal trouble for not taking a gun on postal property.

The fact is that no court has issued an injunction prohibiting law enforcement of the federal ban on carrying firearms on USPS property. And there hasn’t been any ruling on a separate but related USPS policy that prohibits employees from possessing firearms on the job. The only thing the recent court case did was dismiss criminal charges against one Postal Service employee who got caught carrying while at work.

If you’re a customer, it’s probably less likely that they’d try to prosecute you now that the prohibition has been called into question. But, that’s no guarantee. And you really don’t want to be a test case.

There’s nothing at all stopping postal inspectors or federal law enforcement from running you through the legal wringer if you violate the ban. So, if you choose to carry on Postal Service property now, know that you’re still taking a big risk.

The day will likely come that a gun rights group will use Bruen to get a court to issue an actual injunction, but that hasn’t happened yet.

For employees, the situation really hasn’t changed much either. Again, the chance of getting thrown in prison is probably lower, but it’s still not zero. Unlike us customers, employees are subject to the terms of their employment. As an employer, the Postal Service is entitled to ban gun possession while on the job. So, if you work for the USPS and get caught carrying, they’re almost certain to still fire you and use you as an example for other employees. .

USPS Isn’t A Good Source Of Legal Information

At the beginning of the article, I said that you shouldn’t get your legal advice on the internet. That goes for the United States Postsl Service, too. I bring this up because the USPS issued a press release about the court case. In it, they make a number of minor misrepresentations that may be the result of poor wording, but also might be intentionally deceptive.

I can’t tell you what their PR flack’s intentions were, but what I do know is that it’s not entirely clear and honest when they say things like,

A recent Florida district court decision is being misreported or may be misinterpreted as holding that the Postal Service’s ban on carrying firearms — either openly or concealed, or storing them on USPS property — is unconstitutional.

The court very much did hold the statute banning carry is unconstitutional. As U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle wrote in her ruling . . .

[T]he Supreme Court has been clear: the government must point to historical principles that would permit it to prohibit firearms possession in post offices. … The United States fails to meet that burden. Thus, I dismiss the § 930(a) charge because it violates Ayala’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.

The Postal Service ban, violates the defendant’s Second Amendment rights and is therefore unconstitutional. But, the court didn’t prevent future enforcement against other employees (let alone customers) and the Postal Service hasn’t changed its employee policy. This looks like they’re trying to muddy the waters.

So going forward, when this issue goes to court again — and it will — don’t expect the media or the Postal Service to be great sources of legal information on the case. In the mean time, its probably safest to continue to avoid carrying in your local post office. At least for now.

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