By Naveen Athrappully
A Florida judge ruled on Friday that the U.S. government’s decision to arrest an individual for possessing a firearm in a post office violated the person’s Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Postal worker Emmanuel Ayala was indicted by the United States on charges of violating Section 930(a) of the U.S. Code, which regulates the possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities. Mr. Ayala argued that the law is “unconstitutional as applied to him” since historical records do not support a law banning firearms in post offices, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said in her Jan. 12 order.
She cited the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen case, in which SCOTUS said that the Second Amendment protects an American citizen’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense purposes.
That ruling also set up a new test for judging firearms laws, stating that such legal restrictions should be consistent with the country’s historical tradition of firearms regulation.
The United States responded to the Ayala case by stating that “the Second Amendment allows it to punish the bearing of arms inside any government building. But the Supreme Court has been clear: the government must point to historical principles that would permit it to prohibit firearms possession in post offices.”
“The United States fails to meet that burden. Thus, I dismiss the [Section] 930(a) charge because it violates Ayala’s Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Judge Mizelle wrote.
The lawsuit stems from Mr. Ayala’s arrest that took place back in 2022 when he was a semi-truck driver for the U.S. Postal Service. From time to time, Mr. Ayala carried his firearms into the Post Office when retrieving his semi-truck from work “for extra protection” while walking to and from the employee parking lot, the order stated.
On Sept. 14, 2022, two agents from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General attempted to detain him as he walked into the post office. Mr. Ayala ran but was eventually apprehended by the local police. A grand jury indicted him for violating Section 930(a) as well as forcibly resisting arrest.
Judge Mizelle’s order only resolves Mr. Ayala’s Section 930(a) claims.
“Post offices have existed since the founding, as have threats to the safety of postal workers and the public entering those locations. Yet the historical record yields no ‘distinctly similar historical regulation addressing’ those safety problems by regulating firearms in post offices,” the order said.
“Whatever the historical record permits with respect to firearms regulation on government property, that legal principle cannot be used to abridge the right to bear arms by regulating it into practical non-existence.”
No Historical Tradition
“Possessing a firearm in a Federal facility is an activity that falls within the plain text of the Second Amendment,” which guarantees an individual the right to possess and carry firearms in case of confrontation, Judge Mizelle said in her order.
The United States is obligated to demonstrate that a firearm ban in post offices is “consistent with our nation’s founding-era tradition of firearms regulation.”
However, the government concedes that there 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.”
The judge noted that since the creation of the Post Office, mail carriers “have faced risk of violence.” In the 19th century, passengers in stagecoaches, which carried mail at the time, risked injury or death from robbers.
In the latter half of the 19th century, when locomotives became the dominant method of transporting mail, bandits threatened postal workers on board the coaches.
“Yet the federal government never sought to ban firearms to protect employees or secure mail delivery. In fact, when mail train robberies became a growing threat in the early twentieth century, the Postmaster General armed railway mail clerks with ‘government-issued pistols’ from World War I.”
“A blanket restriction on firearms possession in post offices is incongruent with the American tradition of firearms regulation,” the judge said.
Gun Rights Victory
Judge Mizelle’s decision is the latest in a series of victories for pro-gun advocates this year. On Jan. 6, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a judge’s ruling against a California gun control measure to stand.
The California law was enacted after the 2022 Bruen SCOTUS ruling. The law, SB 2, sought to ban people from carrying firearms in most public places, insisting that such an act was unconstitutional.
However, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled in December that the gun law would “unconstitutionally deprive” people with carry permits as they would then not have the “constitutional right to carry a handgun in public for self-defense.”
The 9th Circuit Appeals court allowed this ruling on Jan. 6, blocking the California law from coming into effect.
In another case, Harney County Circuit Court Judge Robert Raschio decided on Jan. 2 that a state court’s preliminary ruling against Oregon’s gun control policy, Measure 114, will stand.
Measure 114 requires Oregon citizens to undergo an FBI background check as well as take part in a police-sponsored firearms class to buy guns.