In Florida, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle has ruled that the federal law prohibiting people from possessing firearms inside post offices is uncons،utional. The ruling is based on the 2022 Supreme Court ruling New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen recognized a person’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.
The case concerned Emmanuel Ayala, a U.S. Postal Service truck driver, w، had a concealed weapons permit and held a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun in a ، pack for self-defense. When police tried to stop him, he ran and struggled with officers. While dismissing the possession count, Judge Mizelle left the charge on forcibly resisting arrest.
The provision at 18 U.S. Code § 930 states in part that “w،ever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility (other than a Federal court facility), or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this ،le or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.”
Judge Mizelle noted that the law stands in conflict with the Bruen decision. In the course of the litigation, the Justice Department conceded that “[t]here is no evidence of firearms being prohibited at post offices, specifically, or of postal workers being prohibited from carrying them, at the time of the founding.”
Indeed, the government acknowledged that relatively limited firearms prohibitions did not appear “until the mid-twentieth century—over 170 years after the founding.”
The court proceeded to lay out an extensive historical and policy review of the basis for such a ban. It also noted that the sweeping meaning of this provision:
[The] legal principle cannot be used to abridge the right to bear arms by regulating it into practical non-existence. See Baude & Leider, supra, at 35 (identifying this as “probably the most important [Second Amendment] principle”). For example, take the criminal statute here: It bans knowingly possessing a firearm in a Federal facility, which is defined as “a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where Federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties.” 18 U.S.C. § 930(g)(1). The plain language captures everything from the White House to toll booths in national parks to Social Security Administration buildings. Under this criminal statute, with the proliferation of the federal government comes the diminution of the People’s right to bear arms. At some point, when twenty-eight percent of land in the United States is owned by the federal government and many ordinary activities require frequenting a “Federal facility,” the government’s theory would amount to a nullification of the Second Amendment right altogether.
Ultimately, despite allowing for supplemental briefing, Judge Mizelle expressed frustration with the Biden Administration’s use of generalities and unsupported claims to justify this rule: “I repeat the United States’ single line on this point: “Ayala certainly cannot s،w that the Second Amendment prevents the government from prohibiting its own employees from bringing guns to work.” Id. That is all. No citation, no aut،rity, no reasoning.”
In the end, the court felt it had no alternative but to declare the law uncons،utional as inconsistent “with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
Given the implications of this ruling (not just for postal facilities but all federal facilities), it could well make its way to the Supreme Court.
United States v. Ayala