Sunday, November 1, 2009

End Federal Gun-Free Zones!

I am a Utah Concealed firearms instructor. In that role, I am required to teach my students what they need to know about the laws of deadly force and of weapon use in general. Utah's laws are fairly straight forward. But, Federal law raises concerns among many gun owners and firearms instructors.

18 USC 930(d)(3) states (in part),

(a) Except as provided in subsection (d), whoever 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 title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.
(d) Subsection (a) shall not apply to-
(1) the lawful performance of official duties by an officer, agent, or employee of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof, who is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of law;
(2) the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a Federal official or a member of the Armed Forces if such possession is authorized by law; or
(3) the lawful carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons in a Federal facility incident to hunting or other lawful purposes.”

Forty-eight States (including Utah) allow the carrying of concealed firearms for personal protection. In addition, many states (including Utah) do not restrict the carrying of firearms for self-defense as long as the firearms are not concealed. Concealed or open, millions of citizens legally carry firearms for personal defense in the normal course of their daily affairs. In all these situations, the carrying of a firearm is lawful and, when carried for personal protection, that carry is for a lawful purpose. It appears to me and many other firearms instructors that 18 USC 930(d)(3), in providing an exemption for “other lawful purposes”, is providing for the carrying of a firearm for personal protection in a Federal facility. Nobody yet knows how a judge would rule on my interpretation although some bureaucrats reportedly disagree with my interpretation.

Some federal buildings, such as the Whitehouse and the US Capitol Building have security screening and armed guards and it is unlikely most people will be allowed entry with a firearm -- even if they are otherwise not prohibited from possessing the weapon. I am not opposed to such a “gun-free” facility where adequate security is provided including armed security officers and security screening. However, most federal facilities provide no such security. If we commoners are denied the free exercise of our right to protect ourselves, I expect the facility to provide at least the same level of protection that I would provide for myself if allowed.

One Federal facility that receives much attention in the gun-rights community nationwide is the local post office.

Regarding weapons on postal property, 39 CFR 232.1(l) states:

Weapons and explosives. No person while on postal property may carry firearms, other dangerous or deadly weapons, or explosives, either openly or concealed, or store the same on postal property, except for official purposes.

This postal rule clearly is much more restrictive than my interpretation of the intent of Congress given in 18 USC 930(d)(3)(d) above. We don’t need contradictions in our laws and regulations! But it gets even more contradictory:

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms,

A nonlicensee may ship a firearm by a common or contract carrier to a resident of his or her own State or to a licensee in any State. A common or contract carrier must be used to ship a handgun. In addition, Federal law requires that the carrier be notified that the shipment contains a firearm and prohibits common or contract carriers from requiring or causing any label to be placed on any package indicating that it contains a firearm. (

How does one get a firearm into the post office for mailing if 39 CFR 232.1(l) bans weapons? That sounds like a trap to me.

What amuses me is the pure absurdity of banning firearms in any so-called “gun-free” area whether it be a school zone, a post office, a National Park (or even simply a road which happens to pass through a National Park), a National Forest office, or any other non-secure federal facility. No gun ban will ever affect the behavior of a criminal and I can't understand why any legislator or bureaucrat would pass laws and rules based on the ridiculous assumption that criminals obey no-guns signs. By definition, criminals ignore the law and will do whatever harm they please – even in “gun-free” areas – places where we law-abiding commoners are disarmed by those same legislators and bureaucrats!

The solution to all this is really very simple. All members of Congress must honor their supposedly solemn oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that [they] will bear true faith and allegiance to the same” and require all government agencies and employees to do likewise. I urge my congressmen to work to immediately end all bans of self-defense weapons in all federal facilities including post offices and other Federal facilities that do not provide full security screening and armed security guards. (In a free nation, those secure facilities should be extremely rare.)

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