Should Federal Police Take Their Service Guns Home With Them?

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., asked the postmaster general to modify the current policy so Postal Inspection Service officers can take their service weapons home with them. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., asked the postmaster general to modify the current policy so Postal Inspection Service officers can take their service weapons home with them. Susan Walsh/AP

A senator wants the U.S. Postal Service to allow its internal police to carry their government-issued firearms even when off the clock, saying it would help keep the officers safe.

The Postal Inspection Service’s uniformed police officers currently must lock their guns at their duty locations at the end of their shifts. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said that was unusual among federal law enforcement personnel and prevented the officers from defending themselves while off duty, especially while traveling to and from their duty stations.

“Uninformed Postal Police Officers place themselves in harm’s way every day to provide protections to postal facilities, employees and customers,” Tester wrote in a letter to Postmaster General Megan Brennan. The senator asked the postmaster general to modify the current policy so the officers can take their service weapons home with them. Officers in similar agencies, such as the Veterans Affairs Department and the Federal Protective Service, can hold onto their service weapons while off duty, Tester noted.

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Lawmakers have previously dealt with the issue of allowing federal law enforcement to carry their service weapons off duty; last year President Obama signed a law that would allow federal officers and agents to carry their government-issued firearms during government shutdowns or other forced, unpaid time off. The 2015 Federal Law Enforcement Self-Defense and Protection Act passed unanimously in Congress. Lawmakers pushed for the change after the 2013 government shutdown left agencies unsure whether law enforcement personnel could carry their official firearms while the employees were sent home, and at least three agencies told employees they could not carry their guns.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association supported that measure, saying the ability to carry service weapons off duty ensured the safety of federal personnel.

“This issue has never been about shutdowns or firearms, but about the absolute necessity of ensuring the safety of our members and their families,” said FLEOA President Nathan Catura.

The postal provision would apply to about 600 officers across the country. Catura said in a letter of support those individuals face serious risks as they travel to and from work and called on the Postal Service to “amend this dangerous policy.” He added FLEOA was aware of “numerous examples” in which Postal Police Officers “risked their lives in an unarmed status while assisting local police.”

“In an era when ambushes of police officers are at an all-time high, having well-trained and committed off-duty Postal Police Officers protects them, other law enforcement officers and most importantly the general public,” Catura said.

A spokesman for the Postal Service said the agency has received the letter and would respond to the senator, but declined to offer any details on its thinking on the topic. 

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