“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds…”
You and I can’t ship firearms through the United States Postal Service, but FFLs ship long guns in the mail all the time because it’s usually cheaper than going FedEx or UPS. Sometimes the difference in shipping costs is big enough that I can save money by paying my FFL an extra $20 to run a rifle through his Bound Book and handle the USPS shipping for me. Either way, when you ship something through the USPS, you expect it to be delivered intact and on time. When you pay for insurance and your shipment disappears in transit, you expect the post office to pay the claim. When you’re an FFL and your collectible WWII-era M1 Carbine vanishes in transit and the USPS denies your insurance claim, it’s time to get on the phone and tell The Truth About Guns. Which is exactly what a Texas gun dealer did . . .
ASE Consultants LLC is a Texas gun dealer that holds standard Type 01 and Type 03 licenses from the BATFE. In October of 2013, ASE shipped a standard World War II-era M1 Carbine Underwood, sans magazines, to a Type 03 FFL dealer in Redondo Beach, California using the United Stated Postal Service. This firearm was manufactured more than 50 years ago and is therefore listed and a “curio and relic.” It was re-arsenaled in 1948.
ASE insured the parcel for the market value (and price paid) of the carbine, which was $800.00. USPS tracking conformation shows that the package made it to its final destination, and that the USPS even attempted delivery. However, when the buyer tried to pick up the package, he was told that it had gone missing. The post office spent a considerable amount of time looking for the item, but eventually concluded that it was lost. OK, shit happens. ASE waited the mandatory 45 days and then promptly filed an insurance claim online.
Here’s where things start to get, well, slimy. On December 4, 2013, the Supervisor of Domestic Claims, Accounting Services, sent both the buyer and the seller the following letter denying the claim for the lost rifle:
This letter is in response to the insurance claim referenced above. Based on our investigation, your claim has been denied because the parcel contained prohibited items. The US postal service prohibits mailing of certain types of items including, but not limited to, alcoholic beverages, certain firearms, and hazardous substances.
Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on a person can only be mailed between authorized dealers as stated in 18 USC 1715. The responsibility for mailability rests with the mailer, not the US Postal Service.
[Explains appeal process, and cites to Section 601 of the Domestic Mail Manual]
Now let’s take a look at Section 609 of the Domestic Mail Manual. Entitled “Filing Indemnity Claims for Loss or Damage,” this section states that the USPS will not pay out an insurance claim for prohibited items:
4.3 Nonpayable Claims
Indemnity is not paid for insured mail, Registered Mail, COD, or Priority Mail Express in these situations:
>Nonmailable items, prohibited items, or restricted items not prepared and mailed according to postal standards, or any item packaged in such a manner that it could not have reached its destination undamaged in the normal course of the mail. [Emphasis added.]
So the USPS lost a valuable insured firearm in shipment (probably to employee theft) and now they’re telling the FFL shipper that they won’t pay the insurance claim because the firearm was a ‘prohibited item.’ Not so fast there, USPS. The applicable federal statute (cited by the USPS) is 18 U.S.C. 1715, which provides as follows:
Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person are nonmailable and shall not be deposited in or carried by the mails or delivered by any officer or employee of the Postal Service. Such articles may be conveyed in the mails, under such regulations as the Postal Service shall prescribe, for use in connection with their official duty, to officers of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Organized Reserve Corps; to officers of the National Guard or Militia of a State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District; to officers of the United States or of a State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District whose official duty is to serve warrants of arrest or commitments; to employees of the Postal Service; to officers and employees of enforcement agencies of the United States; and to watchmen engaged in guarding the property of the United States, a State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District. Such articles also may be conveyed in the mails to manufacturers of firearms or bona fide dealers therein in customary trade shipments, including such articles for repairs or replacement of parts, from one to the other, under such regulations as the Postal Service shall prescribe.
Whoever knowingly deposits for mailing or delivery, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail according to the direction thereon, or at any place to which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any pistol, revolver, or firearm declared nonmailable by this section, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both. [Emphasis added.]
The key language that apparently formed the basis for denial is “other firearms capable of being concealed on the person.” That’s a pretty subjective term, but fortunately the USPS has fairly clear definitions of concealable. The post office’s Publication 52, entitled Hazardous, Restricted, and Perishable Mail, sets forth the applicable definitions of “handgun” and “rifle,” as follows:
Pistols, revolvers, and other firearms capable of being concealed on the person (for example, short–barreled shotguns and short–barreled rifles) are defined as handguns. The following definitions apply:
- Pistol or Revolver. A pistol or revolver is a handgun designed to be fired by the use of a single hand.
- Short–Barreled Rifle. A rifle having one or more barrels less than 16 inches long is defined as a short–barreled rifle. This includes any weapon made from a rifle (by alteration or modification) resulting in an overall length of less than 26 inches.
- Short–Barreled Shotgun. A shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches long is defined as a short–barreled shotgun. This includes any weapon made from a shotgun (by alteration or modification) resulting in an overall length of less than 26 inches.
431.4 Rifles and Shotguns
A rifle is a shoulder weapon having a barrel that is 16 inches or more in length. A shotgun is a shoulder weapon having a barrel that is 18 inches or more in length. Rifles and shotguns have an overall length of 26 inches or greater and cannot be concealed on a person.
An M1 Carbine has an overall length of 35.6 inches and a barrel length of 18 inches. For this reason, the M1 Carbine is properly classified as a “rifle” for purposes of both USPS regulations and 18 USC 1715. As such, an M1 Carbine cannot be “concealed on a person” for purposes of 18 USC 1715.
By claiming that an M1 Carbine is ‘unmailable’, the USPS is clearly ignoring its own policy and pertinent Federal law. But it’s a lot easier to ignore the law and send out an F-U letter than it is to investigate employee theft, particularly when their employees are part of the 330,000-member American Postal Workers Union. The USPS is hoping that ASE doesn’t appeal this denial and just eats the loss. But it’s too late for that: ASE has already appealed.
ASE will certainly win its appeal, but why can’t the mandarins of the USPS just honor their insurance contract and pay the claim in the first place? And why are they so squeamish about investigating employee theft, especially when such theft constitutes a federal felony? And finally, how would it look if some ‘disgruntled postal worker’ tools up with ASE’s stolen M1 and goes on a killing spree at the office?
USPS’s “too bad, so sad” letter to the mailer ends with the following:
The US Postal Service values your business. We apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced as a result of this matter.
Supervisor, Domestic Claims
PO Box 80143
St Louis MO 63180-0143.
Inconvenience? WTF? First, the USPS loses a highly collectable rifle and then it wrongfully denies the insurance claim, and all it has to say is “sorry!” That’s pretty damn sorry. To add insult to injury, the USPS is essentially accusing the mailer of committing a felony by mailing a prohibited item. Of course, they are full of shit as far as that claim goes. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a felony really had been committed: to date (two months later) there has been no follow up by the USPS to have the mailer investigated, arrested or charged.
It’s too bad the USPS doesn’t have the balls to find the real felons in this case. They probably wouldn’t have to look any farther than their own employees, but that’s probably what they’re afraid of.