Ban on guns in post offices is unconstitutional, US judge rules

Ban on guns in post offices is unconstitutional, US judge rules

Ban on guns in post offices is unconstitutional, US judge rules By Reuters

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Published Jan 13, 2024 09:43AM ET
Updated Jan 13, 2024 10:00AM ET

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A person enters a United States Postal Service (USPS) Post Office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., May 9, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Florida on Friday ruled that a U.S. law that bars people from possessing firearms in post offices is unconstitutional, citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2022 that expanded gun rights.

U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of Republican former President Donald Trump in Tampa, reached that conclusion in dismissing part of an indictment charging a postal worker with illegally possessing a gun in a federal facility.

Mizelle said that charge violated Emmanuel Ayala’s right to keep and bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, saying “a blanket restriction on firearms possession in post offices is incongruent with the American tradition of firearms regulation.”

She declined to dismiss a separate charge for forcibly resisting arrest. Ayala’s lawyer and a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

The decision marked the latest court decision declaring a gun restriction unconstitutional following the conservative-majority Supreme Court’s June 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen.

That ruling recognized for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense. It also established a new test for assessing firearms laws, saying restrictions must be “consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

Ayala, a U.S. Postal Service truck driver in Tampa, had a concealed weapons permit and kept a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun in a fanny pack for self-defense, his lawyers said.

He was indicted after prosecutors said he brought the gun onto Postal Service property in 2012 and fled federal agents who tried to detain him.

He was charged under a statute that broadly prohibits possessing a firearm in a federal facility, including a post office.

Mizelle said that while post offices have existed since the nation’s founding, federal law did not bar guns in government buildings until 1964 and post offices until 1972. No historical practice dating back to the 1700s justified the ban, she said.

Mizelle said allowing the federal government to restrict visitors from bringing guns into government facilities as a condition of admittance would allow it to “abridge the right to bear arms by regulating it into practical non-existence.”

Ban on guns in post offices is unconstitutional, US judge rules

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