Seeking to stem the tide of gun violence, many states have passed laws to regulate firearms. The federal government also has imposed certain gun control laws. These must fall within the constraints of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which confers an individual right to bear arms. The modern U.S. Supreme Court has developed a robust interpretation of this provision, dating back to its decision in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008. The Court further expanded gun rights in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen in 2022. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas found that a law in the area covered by the Second Amendment can stand only if the government can show that it is “consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”
A Florida judge recently applied the Bruen standard in dismissing a charge under a federal gun control law. This case arose when a driver for the U.S. Postal Service wore a fanny pack containing a handgun into the post office where he worked. The driver held a concealed carry permit and allegedly kept the firearm for self-defense while he was on the job. He was arrested and eventually charged with violating a law against knowingly bringing a firearm into a federal facility. (Prosecutors also charged him with resisting arrest under a separate statute.)
The driver successfully challenged the gun charge under the Second Amendment. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida found that the government did not prove that prohibiting gun possession in post offices fits within the historical tradition of firearm regulation described in Bruen. She explained that there was no record of a firearm ban covering post offices or postal workers when the U.S. was founded. These types of laws did not emerge until the 20th century, according to her research.
A potential related issue is whether USPS can prevent employees from bringing weapons into the post office. The judge noted that the case concerned only a criminal prosecution, so she did not discuss whether this type of employment policy would violate the Second Amendment.
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