Today’s Ask Your Government

Dear Teri,

Thank you for the article on new North Dakota laws. I was curious: Can a postal worker take a gun in his vehicle to work?

Ken Dahl

Lakota

Thanks for writing! Ken is referring to a new law that says employers may not prohibit employees or customers from having lawfully-possessed firearms locked inside their private vehicles in a parking lot.

Exceptions include schools and correctional facilities. The bill also includes this exception:

“Any other property owned or leased by a public or private employer or the landlord of a public or private employer upon which possession of a firearm … is prohibited under any federal law, contract with a federal governmental entity or other law of this state.”

I contacted the law’s sponsor, Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo. He said the post office didn’t come up during the bill hearings or deliberations. He found the federal regulation (39 CFR 232.1) regarding guns on U.S. Postal Service property:

“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.”

“As best as I can tell, federal law/rule does preclude the pertinent sections of the law to which House Bill 1438 applies,” Kelsh said.

To be sure, I also contacted the U.S. Postal Service. Spokesman Pete Nowacki sent me the following:

“I sent this question to the USPS legal department. They agreed with the bill’s sponsor as to the application of 39 CFR 232.1 and added a pair of citations from case law:

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held this prohibition to be constitutional under the presumptively lawful category of “sensitive place” regulations acknowledged in the District of Columbia v. Heller … See United States v. Dorosan … (affirming an employee’s conviction for storing a handgun in a car parked on postal property).

“Under Heller, the Supreme Court determined that although the Second Amendment protects an “individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation,” that right is “not unlimited,” and does not permit any person to possess any weapon wherever he or she may choose.

“Specifically, the court held that “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” are “presumptively lawful” and further explained that restrictions on firearms in these particular places were merely “examples” of lawful regulatory measures.

“In Dorosan, the court held that the Postal Service was not obligated by federal law to provide parking to its employees. As such, should an employee seek to store a firearm in his or her car but abide by the ban of firearms on postal property, then an employee must secure alternative parking arrangements off postal property.

“The Postal Service maintains that its property is a “sensitive place” in accordance with the Heller court. As such, the change in the North Dakota state law does not trump the federal regulations the Postal Service relies on that prohibit firearms on government property.

“I hope that this information is helpful.”

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

E-mail politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.

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