The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Bonidy v. United States Postal Service on Friday, June 26, 2015.
Tab Bonidy is a resident of Avon, Colorado, who has a permit to carry concealed firearms. Avon does not have residential postal delivery services; instead, residents must pick up their mail at the Avon post office, which is open to the public at all times. Because the United States Postal Service (USPS) does not allow firearms on its property, Bonidy sends an assistant to pick up his mail. Bonidy, through his attorney, sent a letter to the USPS general counsel, asking if he would be prosecuted for carrying a concealed weapon into the post office or storing it in his truck in the parking lot while he got his mail, and the general counsel said he would. Bonidy sued for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the prohibition violated his Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense. Bonidy and the government filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court held the regulation constitutional as applied to concealed firearms, and the regulation regarding open carry was constitutional as applied to the post office building itself, but not as to the parking lot. The government appealed and Bonidy cross-appealed.
The Tenth Circuit analyzed its own and U.S. Supreme Court case law and affirmed the district court’s holding that the regulation was constitutional as applied to concealed firearms. With regard to open carry, a divided panel of the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling as to the post office building but reversed as to the parking lot, finding it constitutional to prohibit firearms both within the building and in the parking lot.
Citing District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Tenth Circuit affirmed the prohibition on carrying firearms in “sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” Although Bonidy argued the language was dicta, the Tenth Circuit noted the Supreme Court repeated its holding in a 2010 case, and the Circuit itself had followed the language in its own holdings, which made it binding precedent. The Tenth Circuit applied an intermediate scrutiny test to determine that the ban on firearms in the post office parking lot was constitutional, since the government is empowered to regulate its own business. The Tenth Circuit further found that, as a national government-owned business, the USPS may create a single national rule regarding firearms carry and need not tailor its rules to each individual customer or building.
The district court’s holding that the concealed carry ban was constitutional as applied to both the USPS building and parking lot was affirmed. The district court’s holding that the prohibition on open carry was constitutional as to the post office building was affirmed. The district court’s holding that the prohibition on open carry was unconstitutional as to the parking lot was reversed. Judge Tymkovich wrote a thoughtful dissent; he would have affirmed the district court in all aspects.