No guns on post office property, says U.S. appeals court

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court said a U.S. Postal Service regulation banning firearms on postal property is constitutional, and reversed a lower court ruling that would have let people keep weapons inside their vehicles in post office parking lots.

By a 2-1 vote on Friday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled against Tab Bonidy, a licensed gun owner who said the restrictions violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Circuit Judge David Ebel said the right to carry firearms does not apply to federal buildings such as post offices, and that while it was a "closer question" he would not second-guess the Postal Service's extending the ban to its parking lots.

"The security of the postal building itself is integrally related to the security of the parking lot adjacent to it," Ebel wrote.

Bonidy, joined as a plaintiff by the National Association for Gun Rights, sued after learning he would be prosecuted if he carried a firearm into a post office in Avon, Colorado, near the Vail ski resort, or stored it in the post office parking lot while he went inside to pick up his mail.

"My clients are obviously disappointed, and we're weighing our options," said Steven Lechner, chief legal officer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which defended the regulation, was not immediately available for comment.

Friday's decision partially reversed a 2013 ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch in Denver.

Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich dissented, saying he would have voided the regulation as applied to the parking lot.

The case is Bonidy et al v. U.S. Postal Service et al, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-1374.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Grant McCool)