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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Cheshire man files lawsuit seeking to carry a gun into U.S. post offices for self-defense

    Cheshire — David Nastri, a town resident who previously unsuccessfully sued Connecticut officials to carry a gun into state parks, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to challenge the law that bans carrying a firearm into U.S. post offices for self-defense.

    As part of the lawsuit, Nastri and the nonprofit, public interest law firm We The Patriots USA are seeking a nationwide preliminary injunction barring U.S. postal officials and federal officials from enforcing the current law, which prohibits people from carrying a firearm into a post office for the purpose of self-defense, their attorney Cameron Atkinson said.

    "If the Biden administration doesn't think that carrying a pistol for self-defense is a lawful purpose then we are going to bury this law and every piece of unconstitutional gun legislation," Atkinson said.

    U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy are named in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford. Garland's office declined comment Thursday citing the pending litigation. A representative of the U.S. Postal Service also declined comment.

    In the complaint, Atkinson contends that all post offices are federal entities that fall under a federal ban on carrying firearms into federal buildings or property. There are exceptions to the ban for law enforcement and other "lawful purposes" including hunting. But, the lawsuit stated, the federal government has "never taken the position that carrying a firearm for the purpose of self-defense is a lawful purpose."

    According to the law banning firearms for self-defense in federal buildings, there must be clearly posted signs outside the building explaining the prohibition, Atkinson said. However, a check of eight area post offices in New Haven County and Bridgeport revealed that only one had the required sign, he said.

    Atkinson also claims in the suit that post offices often are blended into shopping malls and other spaces in communities and people can walk into a nearby pizza restaurant while carrying a gun but not the post office next-door. He also says in the suit that federal buildings have posted warnings that visitors may be searched in the same fashion as when they go through security to fly on an airplane, but post offices have no screening.

    "The lack of such security measures at post offices renders them no different in terms of sensitivity than any other business where the federal government may not ban the carrying of firearms," according to the lawsuit.

    Nastri is seeking a judgment that declares the federal ban on guns for self-defense in post offices as unconstitutional. He also is seeking an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction barring the defendants from enforcing the ban on the possession of firearms in post offices by himself and members of We the Patriots USA, and a permanent injunction barring the defendants from enforcing the law.

    Nastri, a veteran who saw combat in Afghanistan while serving in the Connecticut Army National Guard, according to the complaint, filed a similar suit in federal court in early 2023 to strike down a longtime ban that prohibits visitors to Connecticut's state parks from carrying handguns for self-protection. That lawsuit was dismissed after a two-day trial before a federal judge and now is on appeal.

    Nastri is seeking to legally carry his firearm into a post office while retrieving his mail, said Brian Festa, vice president and co-founder of We The Patriots USA.

    "There is no reason that he's a threat," said Festa, who said Nastri has held a pistol permit for three decades. "If he has a firearm on his hip when he goes into the post office to get his mail, he should be allowed to do that."

    Festa believes the law banning firearms in the post office was based on several shootings committed by disgruntled postal employees in the 1980s and 1990s. But what the law doesn't take into consideration is that it bars the public and employees from bringing a gun into a post office, but it was the employees who had done the shooting. "It wasn't the general public shooting up the post office," Festa said.

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