A Senate committee unanimously passed a measure Thursday to allow people to carry guns on postal service property, but killed a broader push to let gun owners carry their firearms into actual post office buildings.
The measure from Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat, to a broader Postal Reform bill is meant to head off situations where a person could be charged with a crime if they run into the post office after hunting or shooting, for example, and leave their gun in the parking lot.
“In my state, a rural state, we have folks who are going out to the post office [with] a gun in their car,” Mr. Begich said Thursday at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. “[You] park and you go in and you may not realize that even though you stored your gun in that parking lot … this solves this problem once and for all.”
The committee approved the amendment 15-0, but Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, felt it didn’t go far enough; he introduced an amendment that would also allow gun owners to carry guns into physical post office buildings.
“This is important in that we not get trapped into limiting it just to parking lots,” Mr. Paul said. “Where’s the sidewalk? Where’s one foot on the sidewalk, one foot in the door?”
He pointed out that his measure was supported by the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and the National Association for Gun Rights.
Mr. Paul’s amendment failed on a 9-6 vote.
The broader postal reform bill passed the committee on a 9-1 vote. It would ease the service’s huge health care benefit bills for workers and give Postal Service officials more flexibility on setting stamp prices and delivery standards, among other provisions.
Earlier on, an awkward squabble broke out between Mr. Paul and several Democrats on the committee after he made an initial attempt to lift the ban completely.
Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and the committee’s ranking member, said that amendment wasn’t as hard as people were making it out to be.
“I think it truly violates the Second Amendment,” he said. “All Senator Paul is asking is to expand the right of responsible gun owners so that they don’t have to [undergo] scrutiny, they don’t have to change everything when they walk in.”
Mr. Paul emphasized then as well that the amendment was supported by the three major gun rights groups and that they would oppose attempts to strike the language or replace it with any sort of study on the issue.
“This will be seen as a vote as to whether or not you support law-abiding citizens trying to carry a gun in a parking lot,” he said.
That choice irked several Democrats on the committee who ended up voting on the parking lot carve-out but didn’t want to vote on allowing guns to be carried inside buildings.
“There’s no question on the issue of where I stand on Second Amendment rights,” Mr. Begich said. “You want to vote on the parking lot issue? Let’s vote on that right now.”
Sen. Jon Tester, Montana Democrat, said the initial amendment was purely political and designed to provide fodder for attack ads opposing pro-gun senators who opted to vote against the broader lifting of the ban.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, said Mr. Paul’s invoking the NRA’s position on the issue was a “red light” to everyone.
“With all due respect, if we want to vote on the parking lot amendment, let’s vote on the parking lot amendment,” she said.