Guns in post offices? Paul pushes forward

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) plans to continue his fight to allow guns at some post offices, his office said Thursday.

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The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday voted down, by a 9 to 6 vote, Paul’s proposal to allow people to carry guns on postal property as long as it was consistent with local law.

The committee later cleared a broader postal bill that included other gun-related provisions, but Paul’s office said he’ll seek to get his wider proposal included when or if the postal bill gets full Senate consideration.

During Thursday’s markup, Paul noted his idea was backed by a number of gun rights groups, including the Gun Owners of America, the National Association for Gun Rights and the National Rifle Association.

He cast his proposal as a way to protect the Second Amendment rights of postal customers who follow concealed carry laws in their state.

“I think what we don't want is people to be caught up inadvertently who are trying to obey the law, and then all of a sudden are going to jail for something they never intended to do wrong,” Paul said.

“I see nothing unique about the post office that makes me to believe that there will somehow be more violence committed in a post office than anywhere else,” the Kentucky senator, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, later added.

Federal rules from decades ago bar gun owners from carrying firearms on postal property. A federal judge in Colorado last year ruled that customers could leave guns in their car at a post office if allowed by local law, but not inside the building itself.

On Thursday, the Homeland Security panel, which includes more than a couple red state Democrats sympathetic to gun rights, unanimously accepted a proposal from Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) to allow guns on certain postal parking lots.

The committee also approved an amendment that would require federal authorities to study the safety ramifications of allowing guns in post offices.

Still, several of those red state Democrats suggested Paul was trying to lay a political trap that would make it appear they were reining in gun rights.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had somebody come up to me and say, ‘It’s really important that I get to carry my gun into a post office.’ And Montana is a very gun rich state,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). “Let’s not kid ourselves: This is about politics. It's about 100 percent politics.”

Even some Republicans that support gun rights suggested Paul’s proposal was a distraction.

“The problem with the post office is excess capacity and inefficiency. It’s not a Second Amendment issue,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the author of the leading House GOP postal proposal, told The Hill. “My priority is dealing with excess capacity and inefficiency.” 

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