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November 30, 2011

Vol. 5   No. 18

Going Postal

A good case to watch:

Federal Case Advances
Colorado couple's lawsuit over post office gun ban is allowed to proceed
Posted: 11/28/2011 01:00:00 AM MST
Updated: 11/28/2011 08:12:55 AM MST
By John Ingold
The Denver Post

A federal judge in Denver has allowed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Postal Service's ban on guns in post offices to go forward.

Avon residents Debbie and Tab Bonidy filed the lawsuit last year, saying the ban violates their Second Amendment rights.

The Bonidys say they carry handguns for self-defense and both hold concealed-carry permits, and they do not receive mail service at their remote home.

They say the ban, which prohibits carrying guns both in post offices and in their parking lots, makes it impossible for them to pick up their mail.

James Manley, an attorney at the Mountain States Legal Foundation who represents both the Bonidys and the National Association for Gun Rights in the lawsuit, said the case could have a nationwide impact.

"This is a situation that hasn't been challenged before, where you have members of the general public who want to exercise their right to carry," Manley said.

In a motion seeking to dismiss the case, the Postal Service noted that the Bonidys could simply park on the street and leave their guns in the car.  But it also defended the ban as lawful.  The U.S. Supreme Court, while affirming an individual's right to possess firearms, has ruled that laws prohibiting firearms in "sensitive places" are OK, the Postal Service argued.

"Large numbers of people from all walks of life gather on postal property every day," the motion stated. ". . .  The Postal Service is thus responsible for the protection of its employees and all the members of the public who enter postal property."

But earlier this month, U.S. District Senior Judge Richard Matsch rejected the Postal Service's motion, allowing the case to proceed.  Attorneys on both sides will now prepare for a more substantive fight on the law, which could be decided by the end of next year.

In its defense, the Postal Service has pointed to a case in which the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld the conviction of a man who was found to have a handgun in his vehicle in a Postal Service parking lot. That court concluded that Postal Service property was a "sensitive place." But the 5th Circuit's decision is not binding on the Bonidy case.

Manley counters that the defendant in the 5th Circuit case was a Postal Service employee whose vehicle was parked in a restricted, employees-only lot.  No court in the country, he contends, has taken up whether the Second Amendment right to possess firearms extends to public areas of post offices.

"The ruling could have national implications for all post offices," Manley said, "certainly in post offices in areas like the Bonidys in rural areas."

The case could be decided by next year, assuming the Postal Service lasts that long.


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