Federal appeals court to mull guns in post offices

Sadie Gurman
Associated Press

Boulder, Colo. — The U.S. Postal Service and a rural Colorado man will argue in court Wednesday over where on postal property people can legally carry guns.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear the case involving Tab Bonidy, a licensed gun owner who, along with the National Association for Gun Rights, sued the Postal Service in 2010 over its ban on guns in post offices.

Bonidy said the post office in Avon, a small town near Colorado’s Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, violated his Second Amendment rights by refusing to let him carry his concealed handgun into the building when he picks up his mail. The post office also barred him from keeping the weapon in his vehicle in the parking lot.

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled last year that the Postal Service’s ban on firearms in its parking lots violated the Second Amendment. But he also said the agency could keep people such as Bonidy from carrying a gun in a post office lobby.

Both Bonidy and the Postal Service appealed. They disagree over what constitutes a “sensitive place,” such as a government building or a school, where guns can be legally banned.

Bonidy lives outside town and doesn’t get mail delivery. He travels regularly to the post office in Avon, where he doesn’t want the hassle of having to disarm just to briefly pick up and drop off letters, said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is representing Bonidy.

A 10th Circuit ruling would impact other rural Westerners who carry concealed weapons or travel with their hunting rifles and find themselves in the same position, Pendley said.

Matsch wrote in his July 2013 order that because a postal building is sensitive, the sight of someone carrying a gun inside “may excite passions, or excited passions may lead to the use of the firearm. Someone could also attempt to take the firearm from its lawful carrier and use it for criminal purpose.”

But keeping Bonidy from storing the gun in his vehicle outside “sweeps too far” because the public safety concerns that exist inside the building don’t apply to the parking lot, the judge said.

Attorneys representing the Postal Service wrote in court filings that its responsibility for preserving public safety in both the lot and the lobby has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.

“And in neither case does the regulation present any obstacle to the possession of a firearm in the home for self-defense,” postal attorneys wrote in the documents.

But Bonidy argues that, just like a parking lot, a lobby, unsecured and open all day to the public, is not a sensitive place.

He said the Postal Service’s gun ban deserves proper scrutiny.

“Even bans on felons possessing firearms have been subject to more rigorous review than the USPS thinks is necessary for its ban on law-abiding individuals possessing firearms for self-defense,” his attorneys wrote in their appeal.

Neither Bonidy nor his attorneys returned calls seeking comment Tuesday.