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Thread: Carry at a Contract Postal Unit

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    A while back there was discussion about where in, for example, a grocery store that contains a postal counter could one carry. These locations are called "Contract Postal Units" as they almost exclusively exist on private property and are run by private entities.

    The conflict comes in determining where a "post office" begins and the store ends. It is unlawful under federal law to carry a gun onto postal property (with the very limited exception of mailing it as described by law). How then, can a citizen determine what is postal property in a Contract Postal Unit (CPU)?

    This case has nothing to do with guns. It involves a church running one of these CPUs and placing religious items such as prayer cards and donation boxes on the counter and nearby. These items are banned by Postal Regulations from official Post Offices, but no mention is made in the CPU operators handbook.

    I haven't completely read this case yet, but it seems like it would provide and indication to the questions mentioned earlier. I'm posting it here in the event that it might contain useful information and I'll post additional details shortly.

    Google Scholar hosting of 2nd Circuit decision

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    I was right, this case does set about defining where the "postal authority" begins/ends.

    That is not to say, however, that all of SYI serves a public function, any more than selling shovels becomes a public function when a CPU is located in a hardware store. SYI is an independent, separate and distinct not-for-profit entity incorporated for the Church's private use and purposes. The extent of state action correlates directly with the performance of the public function, which here is limited to those areas where the business of the CPU is conducted. This is so notwithstanding that signage at the portal identifies the shop (or home or seminary) as a place where federal postal services are rendered. In sum, SYI is a state actor pursuant to the public function test, but only as to those areas of its facility where the public function takes place, namely the postal counter, the postal boxes, and the shelving unit that stores and displays postal materials.
    SYI is the private non-profit the church created for the sole purpose of running the CPU. The crux of the court's decision seems to be that SYI performs "state functions" and thus is an extensions of the state, but only in certain areas.

    I'm going to continue reading and posting...

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    Since the extent of the state action (and the extent of the Establishment Clause violation) is limited to that part of the CPU fulfilling the Postal Service's mandated public function, a sufficient remedy need extend no further or elsewhere. Here, the public functions include the acceptance of mail, the processing of mail and packages for delivery, and the sale of postal goods and services. These are performed or fulfilled at the postal counter, in the post office boxes, and on the shelving housing postal products; so the postal counter and the surfaces of the post office boxes and shelving units are zones in which the function of religious outreach is out of place. The postal counter, post office boxes and shelving units must therefore be free of prayer cards and messages and must be cleared of religious material. Since the disclaimer is helpful in differentiating the public space and function from the private one, it should remain.

    In order to differentiate the primary area serving the public function from the remainder of the space operating as a private ministry, SYI is directed to create and install a barrier in front of the postal counter that is a visual cue and gives a sense of passage from one area of the space into another, thereby delineating space exclusively dedicated to the public function from space dedicated to other things. Separation and visual cues will not keep the video from being seen and overheard by postal patrons, but the source will unambiguously emanate from a zone distinct from the post office functions. We need not prescribe the specifications of the barrier, but it would do to use such things as stanchions with hanging ropes (of the kind used in a theater), or a low railing. Once the postal counter is cleared and visual cues installed, no more is required to cure the Establishment Clause violation.
    The court found that only a portion of the entire floor space can be considered to be fulfilling the Postal Service's mandate. The remedy is to clear of the specific areas that are dedicated to postal use (counter, mail boxes, shelf space for products, etc) and create a barrier delineating the two spaces.

    My final conclusions in the next post.

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    Federal law prohibits the carrying or possession of firearms on postal grounds:
    39 CFR 232.1, in part, states:

    (l) 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.
    "Official purposes" should only be read to mean the shipping of firearms in compliance with postal regulations. It in no way authorizes the carrying of firearms by licensed individuals.

    While the US Postal Services doesn't own the property that a CPU is built upon, a condition of their contract with the private entity does provide for the US Postal Service paying to build counter space, mail boxes, or other required structures. These structures are then dedicated to serving postal functions. Erring on the side of caution, it could be argued that they constitute "postal property."

    In many instances the "postal structures" I described (my own term) are part of businesses and other non-postal, privately controlled, locations. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has just decided that only those locations dedicated to postal functions can be considered subject to Federal constitutional protections. Additionally, any location that is not expressly dedicated to postal functions but which may be included as part of the CPU must be sections off using visual cues in order to keep the interests of the two separate.

    So, if a grocery store or pharmacy contains a postal counter you can carry in the store. You should not carry to the counter and if the area near the counter is sectioned off in any way that indicates it is an extensions of the postal counter area you shouldn't carry there either. It would be very difficult for the government to charge that you were carrying on postal property if you stay out of those locations.

    I say "shouldn't" above because there's no saying that it actually is considered postal property at all. This is just my non-legal opinion while erring on the side of caution.

    (Disclaimer: IANAL, YMMV, :P)

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    In sum, SYI is a state actor pursuant to the public function test, but only as to those areas of its facility where the public function takes place, namely the postal counter, the postal boxes, and the shelving unit that stores and displays postal materials.
    I'm reading it a little different.If you're carrying, you can't climb into the postal boxes or climb onto the postal counter or shelving unit.The front of the counter, postal boxes and shelving unit(s) is the dividing line. You can't go behind the counter if you're carrying.

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    This is a common sense approach, I mean after all, it's not the postal customers that go postal is it? it's the postal workers, so inside the mail boxes and behind the counters should be off limits.

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    I could see that argument as well. My main concern was to err on the side of caution.

    Of course this whole discussion could be moot if none of this area is considered "postal property" at all.

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    Oh, Statkowski, you're a troublemaker. What, with all that thinkin' & such. Don't you know Uncle Sam frowns on that?

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    Another good reason to privatize the Post Office.

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    gluegun wrote:
    I could see that argument as well. My main concern was to err on the side of caution.

    Of course this whole discussion could be moot if none of this area is considered "postal property" at all.
    How does renting the P.O. space to operate from turn it into their property? Its under their control of course.

    I dont think privatizing it would matter, if its their policy they could just initiate it regardless of if its a federal entity or not.

    On another note I went with my wife to the SS office last week to get her a new card.
    Never gave my gun a thought. The office is in rented space & there was no posted no gun signs anywhere outside the office or in the building. Once there she got in line & I just poked around looking at literature & only then did I notice, next to the service window, not remotely viewable anywhere before getting inside, a sign prohibiting guns in the SS office.
    I went & waited in the hall but cant help thinking that such warnings should be placed so you can see them BEFORE getting inside. I felt like I stepped into a trap.

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