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Can a CHL take his handgun inside a US Post Office to buy stamps?
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

No. Even though one has a valid CHL, the US Government does not trust citizens on Federal facilities with even a duly licensed handgun (or with any firearm or dangerous weapon, for that matter).

Please refer to 18 USC 930. It addresses possession of firearms and "dangerous weapons" in "Federal facilities" and "Federal court facilities."

Basically, unless you are a cop, in the army, or lawfully hunting on a "Federal facility" you are subject to one year in prison and a fine for taking a firearm or dangerous weapon on a Federal facility. There are no exceptions for CHL holders, no matter how thoroughly they have been vetted as non-criminals.

"Federal facility" means "a building or part thereof owned or leased by the Federal Government, where federal employees are regularly present for the purpose of performing their official duties."

There are even stiffer penalties if the facility is a "Federal court facility." And a court can also hold you in contempt and prohibit possession of "weapons" (not just "dangerous weapons") within any building housing a court or "upon the grounds appurtenant to such building." The Feds might argue that this includes the outside grounds of a court. A federally owned or leased parking lot at a court building, for instance.

Subsection (h) says that notice of the provisions regarding the firearms or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility or Federal court facility shall be posted conspicuously at each public entrance to each Federal facility and at each public entrance to each Federal court facility. No person shall be convicted of an offense if such notice is not so posted "unless such person had actual notice of subsections (a) [Federal facilities] or (e) [Federal court facilities], as the case may be."

Although 18 USC 930(h) requires conspicuous posting of the provisions regarding firearms or other dangerous weapons, defenses to prosecution based on "notice" provisions are not always successful. Compare U.S. v. Strakoff, 719 F.2d 1307 (5th Cir. 1983) (notice not conspicuous when one entering courthouse could go to metal detector without seeing a posted notice and Defendant arrested at metal detector when he asked for a receipt for his newly purchased handgun) with U.S. v. Lunstedt, 997 F.2d 665 (9th Cir. 1993) (jury found notice conspicuous when an individual entering courthouse would have to walk past it on the way to metal detector), U.S. v. McArthur, 108 F.3d 1350 (11th Cir. 1997) (conviction affirmed because "conspicuous notice" affirmative defense, and, thus, government does not have to prove existence of required notice), U.S. v. Murray, 271 F.3d 349 (1st Cir. 2001) (black powder pistol is dangerous weapon and violation was "knowing" one when Defendant was told of rule), and U.S. v. Holdsworth, 990 F.Supp. 1274 (D. Colo. 1998) ("actual notice" meets "posting" requirements even without proof there was "a notice posted on a wall that is read by virtually no one.").

In conclusion, do not take your gun into a federal building or you risk prosecution under draconian federal laws.

Question answered 1/29/04

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