Going Postal: Why Changing the Law to Allow USPS to Ship Ammo Should Be a High Priority

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

In a recent article, I talked about cloning pro-abortion states’ “Shield Laws” in the context of ammunition. The basic idea is that if pro-abortion states get to undermine anti-abortion states’ laws by shipping abortion pills, why shouldn’t pro-Second Amendment states copy the idea and undermine the unconstitutional laws of anti-Second Amendment states by shipping ammunition?


Unfortunately, there are several wrinkles that prevent a direct copy-paste of abortion “Shield Laws”, the biggest being federal laws that regulate restrict interstate commerce in firearms and ammunition.

Unlike abortion pills, at the federal level, you cannot buy or sell guns in interstate commerce without a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) as an intermediary. This isn’t true for ammunition, so theoretically, the laws of anti-Second Amendment states can be undermined using pro-abortion states’ tactics.

However, abortion pills (except promotional samples) can be shipped via the United States Postal Service (USPS), whereas federal law prohibits the shipping of ammunition via USPS.

The USPS is aware that abortion pills can be shipped to states that restrict them, but they have stated that they won’t participate in enforcement (archived link):

USPS: It's Up to Mailers to Comply With State Laws on Abortion Pills

The Postal Service says it will not crack down on the mailings, while the Biden administration promises to use the mail to expand access to the pills.

The U.S. Postal Service will not proactively help states enforce laws prohibiting the use of abortion pills in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, despite many legislatures vowing to crack down on the practice.


Asked whether USPS will conduct any sort of screening to ensure abortion pills do not go to states where they are banned, Kim Frum, an agency spokesperson, said, “Federal law and Postal Service regulations determine what can and can’t be mailed.” 


Ammunition can be shipped using a private carrier such as UPS or FedEx, but private firms are cognizant of legal risk for obvious reasons. As an example, look at how New York City sued bus companies for transporting migrants from Texas (archived link) and dropping them off in their “sanctuary city” backyard. One of the bus companies that was sued stopped transporting migrants (archived link).

That brings us back to the postal service. Why is the USPS not allowed to ship ammunition? The underlying theory is that live ammunition is classified as “hazmat” (hazardous materials), and therefore, the postal service is barred from shipping it. Publication 52 of the USPS says the following:

Small Arms Ammunition. Ammunition is classified as a Division 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, or 1.4 explosive, depending on the degree of hazard. Ammunition that is regulated as a Class 1 explosive and designed to be fired from a pistol, revolver, rifle, or shotgun, as well as associated primers and blank cartridges (including those designed for tools) and propellant powder for use in any firearm, is prohibited from mailing.

Appendix D (“Hazardous Materials Definitions”) states:

Ammunition includes all kinds of bombs, grenades, rockets, mines, projectiles, and other similar devices or contrivances. Ammunition is a Class 1 explosive and is nonmailable.

Private carriers like UPS and FedEx are obviously able to handle ammunition. Is there some magical power those companies have that USPS doesn’t?


The postal service is one of the few federal services that is constitutionally mandated in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 7. Everyone, including gun owners, pays taxes to support this constitutionally-mandated service. In other words, it’s OUR postal service, not just the gun control supporters’ personal courier.

The ban on USPS shipping ammunition is obviously a political restriction, not a technical one, and can be traced back to the Gun Control Act of 1968. But, for argument’s sake, let’s say that the ban on USPS shipping ammunition is based on technical reasons associated with hazardous materials. In that case, the postal service should be mandated to build the capability to handle ammunition shipments like UPS and FedEx.

There are risks in keeping USPS out of the ammunition shipping network. What if UPS and FedEx decide to pull out after a lawsuit from gun control groups? What if one of them pulls out and the other is left with de facto monopoly power on a critical component of the ultimate bulwark against tyranny?

In my previous article, I cheekily suggested that the Postmaster General copy the ATF Director and unilaterally allow the shipment of ammunition, like how the ATF Director unilaterally reclassified bumpstocks as machine guns and banned pistol braces.

But the right way to do it is by legislation. Congress must act. There was a bill titled,  “Protecting the Mailing of Firearms Act,” recently introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC), that authorizes USPS to start shipping prohibited firearms again.


The press release and the bill text state that ammunition shipping will be authorized if this bill were to pass. It repeals 18 U.S. Code § 1715. Although the bill doesn’t state it explicitly, it appears that 18 U.S. Code § 1716, which controls explosives and hazardous materials, is modified by the bill.

This bill got little attention in the Second Amendment community. It should be a high priority. If you can, contact your Congressional Representative and have him or her co-sponsor this bill. That will be a small first step in the right direction.

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