Nassau County DA Backs Down: Staff Can Now Own Handguns at Home…Without Being Fired

Last week, we brought to your attention the story that the Nassau County, New York District Attorney’s Office required its attorneys and other staff, as a condition of employment, to forego their constitutionally-protected right to own a pistol at home. That story had legs, and apparently generated more than a little heat for the Acting District Attorney, Madeline Singas (above). So much so, in fact, that she’s now decided to backtrack: her staff can now own handguns at home without fear of reprisals at work . . .

Professor Eugene Volokh (who reported the story initially) has the full text of memoranda drafted by Albert Teichman, Chief Assistant District Attorney. A few money quotes from the memo:

This policy [banning DA staff ownership of handguns at home] was [originally] established to absolutely avoid the dangers posed by armed, ununiformed lawyers working in charged situations like crime scenes, with other armed law enforcement, without proper firearms training, to prevent friendly fire tragedies like those that have occurred in recent years in Nassau County and neighboring jurisdictions. Including:

* In 2006, off-duty NYPD Officer Eric Hernandez was shot and killed by an on-duty officer after attempting to apprehend suspects who had attacked him.

* On January 25, 2008, off-duty Mt. Vernon, New York, Police Department Officer Christopher Ridley was shot and killed by officers from another department while Ridley was holding a suspect.

* On May 28, 2009, off-duty New York City Police Department (NYPD) Officer Omar Edwards was shot and killed by another officer as Edwards was in foot pursuit of a suspect who had broken into Edwards’s car.

And these incidents were cited, too:

additional friendly fire tragedies followed in Nassau County, specifically:

* On March 12, 2011, plainclothes Nassau County Police Officer Geoffrey Breitkopf was killed by an MTA Police officer at an active crime scene in Massapequa Park.

* On December 31, 2011, off-duty ATF Special Agent John Capano was killed in a friendly-fire incident involving a retired Nassau County Police Department Lieutenant and off-duty NYPD Officer during a pharmacy robbery.

So…the policy was implemented to bar DA office attorneys and staff from owning handguns at home due to a series of force-on-force shootings by police in the course of their duties. In a part of a state where getting a license to carry a concealed firearm in the first place is a task of Sisyphean proportions.

Actually, that sounds like standard gun control logic to me, so I’m not even surprised by it.

The new policy is as follows.

Handgun Ownership and Possession by Assistant District Attorneys:

It is the policy of the Nassau County District Attorney’s office that Assistant District Attorneys are strictly prohibited from carrying or possessing a weapon any time they are working, including, but not limited to work in the DA’s office, courthouses, crime scenes, witness interviews and meetings with other agencies, without the express written permission of the District Attorney of the District Attorney’s authorized designee.

Assistant District Attorneys are permitted to own and possess a legally registered handgun in their homes or for legally permitted activity unrelated to their employment and workplace. Any Assistant District Attorney who as a result of this policy change acquires a handgun is encouraged to take a firearm safety course.

Any Assistant District Attorney who owns handgun must supply a copy of all licensure and registration documentation to the DA’s office. Violations of this policy may result in termination.

It should be pointed out that this policy was specific only to Nassau County. Other counties had very different takes on the matter. The Times Union reports that Rensssalear County, New York DA Joel Abelove actually encourages his assistants to apply for permits. In fact, he’ll even pick up the tab for the licensing and training fees:

“I’m not suggesting my staff has to arm themselves,” Abelove said. “I just wanted them to know I support them if they want to carry a gun.”

Several of the judges in the county’s court facility have concealed-carry permits, as do some assistant district attorneys.

The state Office of Court Administration’s court officers, who are armed, require members of the public entering the building to surrender their legal sidearms, which are stored in a gun safe until the person leaves.

However, the rule doesn’t apply to prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officers. It’s unclear how the rules are enforced in every courthouse across the state because some are protected by sheriff’s departments or local police departments, while others have security handled by state court officers.

Schenctady County doesn’t go as far as the full embrace displayed by Rensselaer County, but they’re okay with it:

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney said his office does not have an official policy on whether an assistant district attorney can carry a firearm, and he added it’s up to the individual.

“I certainly don’t restrict it,” Carney said. “There is no prohibition or encouragement.”

A big thank-you is owed to Prof. Volokh for discovering and reporting on this story, and helping to achieve a small victory for the right to keep and bear arms in a state that certainly needs every one it can get.

 

DISCLAIMER: The above is an opinion piece; it is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship in any sense. If you need legal advice in any matter, you are strongly urged to hire and consult your own counsel. This post is entirely my own, and does not represent the positions, opinions, or strategies of my firm or clients.

comments

  1. avatar Adrik says:

    “Any Assistant District Attorney who owns handgun must supply a copy of all licensure and registration documentation to the DA’s office. Violations of this policy may result in termination.”

    WTF is this? That is not a real victory, what business is it of any employer the number of handguns, type of guns, etc someone owns? This is still BS.

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      In New York, it’s largely a formality. Since all gun purchases require extensive licensing and tracking, the local DA already has easy access to this information.

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        In other words, the boss can check up on you, and if you haven’t fessed up and supplied the information directly, they have another way to fire your pro-2A ass.

      2. avatar Wiregrass says:

        Yes it is largely a formality. But since it is now permitted for them to own handguns at home, and the information is available to the attorney’s office, why should this be grounds for termination? That is just harassment, f-her.

    2. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

      I was going to post the same. My work requires me to have a car and insurance, but they don’t ask for a copy of my car registration. This is BS, if I was an attorney there is no way I would work in that DA’ s office.

    3. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

      It is still BS, but at least now we’re arguing over the regulatory burden and not the right to keep arms itself.

      Eleven yards, first down.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        “Eleven yards, first down.”

        Not if the District Attorney uses her knowledge of who owns handguns to railroad them out of their jobs, or worse.

        1. avatar BDub says:

          Wait till they start forcing turn-overs.

        2. avatar Another Robert says:

          “wrongful termination” lawsuit??

    4. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

      When you work in certain government occupations you may end up giving up some of your rights as a Co dition of employment. As s 30 veteran of
      the intelligence community I agreed to give up much of my 4th Amendment rights at least until it becomes a criminal matter.

    5. avatar Ray Ficara says:

      The NY State Labor Code specifically forbids any employer from taking action against any employee based in private legal activities including but not limited to recreational ones. If a boss fires an employee because he saw a hunting photo in his cubicle he’s subject to fines AND court action.

      Ray

    6. avatar Gringo Cracker says:

      Their “may terminate” policy goes well with their “may issue” policy. At least they’re consistent about their subjective favoritism.

  2. avatar MarkPA says:

    I think this story is useful. It raises in the public’s mind the questions of who:
    – enjoys the right of arms; and
    – is prohibited;
    – is empowered by the State to be armed; and,
    – is not-empowered.

    The more sub-classifications governments make: respecting a right; denying that right; awarding a power; withholding a power the more nonsensical governments appear to be.

    We need new county-level maps: Shall-Carry; May-Carry; Prohibited-from-Carrying for various governmental employees. Cops; prison guards; prosecutors; judges; bailiffs; etc.

  3. avatar Another Robert says:

    if I ever grew up, I would like to be Eugene Volokh. BTW, in Texas DAs and County Attorneys are allowed to carry guns by virtue of their office, and a special “prosecutor” CHL is [supposed to be] available for assistant DAs and CAs (the cost is reduced, and they can carry some places regular CHL holders can’t). Irks me that they still presumably have to get the license at all, since their authority to do everything else derives from the DA/CA; the same should apply to the authority to carry a handgun. But, come to think of it, no one should have to have any “authority” outside of the 2A to carry anyway.

  4. avatar Fred Frendly says:

    Time to secede from the communist states like NY, CT, NJ, CA etc……. let them live their way in their own socialist commie hell holes and put up Trumps wall to block them from contaminating the Free States. Federalism is dead, Obama has seen to that. Why keep pretending there is still a Republic. It’s over.

    1. avatar kelly says:

      The reason those states are so screwed up is because we have voted by leaving. Ceeding ground to the Enemy has not served us well.
      1st we pulled out of the cities. They took over the schools and the child’s minds. Then we pulled out of the inner ring suburbs They have gleefully accepted.
      now they are after the states, And we leave..
      They are not content with pooping in their own back yard. They are after your back yard too.
      The Colorado incidents should be evidence enough.

      They are working to attain critical mass. As soon as they attain it. All our hard won rights will be gleefully voted away.

      Its not only time to stand our ground but we need to take back territory.

      1. avatar MarkPA says:

        Kelly, you are ABSOLUTELY correct. Now, what to do about it?

        Retreating to ground we can defend is a tactically valid decision. However, it may not be the strategic solution to winning the war. We abandon the Won’t-Issue States – which for some of the same fundamental reasons – have net immigration. Where do they go? To the prosperous States where we went to escape them!

        We tend to be much too parochial. ‘ I live in a Right-to-Carry State. The neighboring States where I travel grant reciprocity; or, they issue Non-Resident permits. I’m satisfied. I got mine! To hell with those slaves in Won’t-Issue States. Let them free themselves; or escape. ‘

        We can very easily lose the overall war with such a parochial attitude. Hoplophobia is a disease that has an effective inoculation. Exposure to the facts of living in an armed society.

        Many of us PotG have reservations about forced inoculation. Be that as it may, the analogy is valid. Shall we allow the disease of hoplophobia establish its base in sister-States of our Union? Will we react ONLY when infected patients begin migrating to OUR State? Thereupon, how could we quarantine these infected citizens?

        We MUST act locally to elect Federal Senators and Representatives who will protect and defend the RKBA. Foremost on our agenda ought to be a National Reciprocity bill. Will we do NOTHING WHATSOEVER to extend a fundamental civil right to our sister Won’t-Issue States? If we do NOTHING then we will deserve the consequences.

        National Reciprocity is not – by itself – a panacea. It’s opening the first fissure in the impenetrable barrier to the 2A in the Won’t-Issue States. Once this fissure is opened it will widen until the Carry-ban is effectively eroded. Won’t-Issue will be followed by tentative relaxation of May-Issue and then liberal May-Issue and eventually tantamount to Shall-Issue. These States may never reach Constitutional-Carry; nevertheless, they may be effectively inoculated.

        1. avatar ShiningKnight says:

          Well said, MarkPA.

  5. avatar DevilNuts says:

    Thank god my parents moved us out of NY when I was young. Property taxes were killing my father who retired from the FDNY. I don’t know who the hell can afford the taxes alone in that shit hole. I have family still on LI and they pay about 10,000-12,000 in property tax a year on a small house, it’s insane!

  6. avatar Matt in Pa says:

    Treasonous lot.

  7. avatar Hammers says:

    It seems to me like these officer shooting were just murders no? They were running or HOLDing a suspect in just about all of these cases. How does that allow an officer to fire on them?

    1. avatar Johannes Paulsen says:

      I only know what was in the memo. If anyone has details please hit this thread!

  8. avatar tdiinva (Now in Wisconsin) says:

    Sounds to me like one of her assistant DAs reminded her that they were all lawyers and that it was easy for them so seek zero cost legal remedies.

  9. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    So… Sometimes cops tragically shoot each other when they’re in dangerous situations, dealing with dangerous people. So the solution is to go into dangerous situations and deal with dangerous people unarmed.

    It’s a textbook case of liberal logic.

  10. avatar Dirk Diggler says:

    the “acting” DA is still a b!tch. I bet she has a carry permit for her and her husband. Who checks to see if she submitted all of her paperwork? Exactly. Hypocritical b!tch

  11. avatar Hannibal says:

    ” avoid the dangers posed by armed, ununiformed lawyers working in charged situations like crime scenes, with other armed law enforcement, without proper firearms training, to prevent friendly fire tragedies like those that have occurred in recent years in Nassau County and neighboring jurisdictions. Including…”

    …including absolutely no incidents of ununiformed lawyers being involved in such an incident.

    1. avatar Amok! says:

      What a bunch of straw men, blue on blue shooting arguments used incorrectly to relate to attorneys.

      When is the DA or any assistant DA at an active, non-sanitized crime scene like a cop or undercover cop would be?

      Unless its an illegal assault against the DA/assistant DA. When they actually need a gun. From criminals attempting/threatening physical revenge.

      WTF? This is the best bulls*** argument they could use? Seriously. That passes for DA level critical thinking.

  12. avatar Dunebuggy says:

    Has anyone noticed she is the “Acting District Attorney”. She was more than likely placed into the this position as a litmus test for how far they can push. If not well received they find a different option and play the media about her over stepping her authority.

  13. avatar fishydude says:

    It never occurs to these people that the mass disarming of the population has resulted in a default police office position that anyone in plain clothes with a gun is a criminal. And the results are deadly.
    In states with constitutional carry, I suspect such killing by police is substantially less likely.
    The Chicago chief of police is on record stating that he has, in effect, given his officers a shoot on site order if they see anyone in plain clothes with a gun, whether or not they are legally carrying. He will regret that order when plain clothes or UC officers get killed.

    1. avatar Fox2! says:

      When the Fibbies come after him when one of their own is killed. Or the Marshals, Secret Service, etc.

  14. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    From the Nassau County District Attorney’s office official statement/policy

    Any Assistant District Attorney who owns handgun must supply a copy of all licensure and registration documentation to the DA’s office. Violations of this policy may result in termination.

    Something tells me that any Assistant District Attorneys who share copies of their handgun licenses are going to face termination anyway — but not for owning a handgun of course. And, until they are terminated, they are going to get the most awful work assignments with no chance for promotions or raises in pay.

  15. I think it’s time Nassau county stop arming its officers. They’re killing one of their own about every year. I mean, that’s probably good for keeping their academy busy but it’s gotta be (pardon the pun) murder on their insurance.

  16. avatar notalima says:

    “ununiformed lawyers”

    What exactly is a ‘uniformed’ lawyer in that case?

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      You can usually tell by the horns and the tail.

    2. avatar Another Robert says:

      Maybe they could invest in some of those windbreakers with “Nassau County District Attorney’s Office” printed on the back, and –viola’–“uniformed” lawyers!

    3. avatar Joe R. says:

      Not “ununiformed lawyers”

      “Uninformed” Lawyers, you know, the kind that get malpractice complaints and therefore have a greater need for guns at home.

  17. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    This course of events illustrates once again the risk of licensing/registration.

    The very fact that government tells you that you have to register a firearm or have a license to own a firearm reveals that it is a privilege, not a right. Remember, what privileges the government grants, the government can take away, on a whim, for any reason or no reason.

    We would never tolerate licensure or registration of speech or religious faith. Why do we tolerate licensure or registration of firearms?

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      We accept FCC licensing requirements (against freedom of the press) with regard to power and frequency parameters. This was handy in the 1950’s-1960’s to prevent overrun on frequencies used by NASA during the early space program N O T ! ! ! !

      We get regulated all to hell on a lot of things and it’s ALL THE SAME THING. Those that will comply bend-over-and-take-it. Those that won’t, don’t. The FCC isn’t keeping you from being stepped on long-range by some over-powered C.B. radio, or some spurious ham signaler EXCEPT TOO LONG AFTER THE FACT!

      NO ONE CAN PROTECT YOU ON THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL. NO ONE. Especially not your stupid a-hole neighbors needing jobs (a/k/a: your government).

      1. avatar MarkPA says:

        Such comparison with “reasonable” regulation of the radio bands has recently occurred to me.

        I have a license to transmit on certain frequencies using certain signaling protocols using power up to 1,500 Watts. However, the FCC leaves me relatively free to say whatever I want. I must announce my call-sign periodically. I am generally restricted from transmitting for commercial purposes (under my amateur license). Profanity is forbidden. Transmitting false or misleading signals is forbidden. Have to comply with HIPPA. Not much beyond this. I have relative liberty about what I say on-the-air. My license is NOT one that allows me to “speak” on the radio waves; rather, it is a license to “take up some space” in certain radio bands. I could simply broadcast a “carrier” with no intelligence in the signal at all (apart from a periodic call sign).

        What is interesting here is that there is NO prior restraint. I can mail-order all the radio transmitting equipment I like. If the charge goes through the transmitter will appear on my doorstep. I can order the transmitter amplifier tubes necessary to broadcast a signal above my licensed authorization of 1,500 Watts. And, I can assemble these parts into a functioning transmitter which I am forbidden to use above my licensed limit. However, the FCC would have to hunt me down and prove that I exceeded this limit on my license.

        Hunting me down wouldn’t be difficult since the FCC knows my home address. Nevertheless, I am free to transmit from ANY location within the US without prior notice or permission. If I were intent upon transmitting outside the scope of my license (power or frequency or mode) nothing stops me from transporting my transmitter anywhere I can supply myself with electricity; there is little the FCC could do to track me down. No police officer could arrest me for possessing an overpowered transmitter or one tunable to a frequency for which I am not licensed.

        It seems to me that the prior-restraints on carry – GFZ – is relatively unique in the array of government regulation of citizens’ activities. The regulation of the airwaves is actually relatively light in the case of a technology not anticipated at the time of Ratification as compared to Carry-bans on a technology very well understood and explicitly protected at Ratification.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “What is interesting here is that there is NO prior restraint. I can mail-order all the radio transmitting equipment I like.”

          It’s fairly common for ham radio equipment sellers to require your FCC call before they ship ham radio gear.

          A big part of that came about when 27 MHz CB radio operators found out they could really improve their TX signal with a linear amplifier.

        2. avatar MarkPA says:

          That is probably true; however, it is NOT mandated by Federal law. It’s the proprietor’s exercise of his personal discretion. The last couple of transceivers I bought at a shop were preceded by a friendly chat wherein we exchanged call signs and remarks about our history of activity. So, the guy knew I had a license (or, at least, claimed to have a license).

          The same is true of self-regulation in the SCUBA industry/sport. You simply can’t go on a dive with a dive master nor buy compressed air without showing your certification card. Nevertheless, you can buy all the equipment with no certification, including an air compressor. (I have 2 air compressors in my basement.)

          The point, here, is that there is very little in the way of prior-restraint in regulating the radio waves. And, even though society as we know it would come to a crashing halt if the radio waves were widely subjected to “pirate” transmitters, that simply doesn’t happen.

          Nor is there any reason to suppose that the streets would be overflowing with blood but-for the prior restraints of 10 States on the bearing of arms.

          “Reasonable regulation” of the airwaves does not serve as an analogy for prior restraint on bearing or keeping arms.

  18. avatar Joe R. says:

    Wow, handguns at home? Really?

    Pigs are more equal.

  19. avatar Out_Fang_Thief says:

    The only problem I see here is how many police officers, off-duty police officers, or retired police officers have exhibited dangerously poor judgement when using their firearms. Sounds like they all shot first, and then asked questions later, which of course, was tragically too late. Don’t they yell, “Police…freeze!!!” anymore, before they unleash deadly force? When you make an assumption you only shorten the time before you jump to a conclusion. Whenever you do that, bad things usually happen. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    1. avatar MarkPA says:

      “. . . how many police officers, off-duty police . . . have exhibited dangerously poor judgement when using their firearms. ”

      A point well-taken; but, our rhetoric needs to be handled delicately.

      The Anti’s will respond:

      “There you go! You see, guns are so inherently dangerous that we must minimize – at all costs – the number of guns routinely carried in public. Anyone at all – why even our police whom we trust implicitly – have negligent or injudicious discharges.
      Obviously, the secure state can’t survive without armed officers (police and military) to defend it. But no one else should carry in public. Except, of course, men of means and those that guard their property”.

      Do we want our rhetoric to queue-up the the Anti’s response? Or, should we try to be a little more clever about it?

      How about, e.g.:

      ‘Yes, negligent and injudicious discharged happen. They even happen to police. The police have a duty to their employer law-enforcement agents to go looking for trouble and pursue it whenever the discover it. As a consequence, they discharge their guns in public more often than civilians do. Given their duty, the courts give them “qualified immunity” that protects them to a substantial degree from the consequences of errant shots. Therefore, cops are less inhibited in firing their guns.

      In sharp contrast, civilians have no qualified immunity. Any civilian who fires his gun, or even brandishes it, in public must explain himself to the police, usually the prosecutor, and possibly a jury. The threat of a conviction – and a possible lawsuit for damaged caused – makes civilians extremely judicious about drawing their guns in public places.

      After 25 – 30 years of widespread licensed carry in the US, the record is pretty clear. Civilian negligent and injudicious discharges hardly ever occur. ‘

      Collectively, we ought to be able to compose better – shorter – more convincing ways of expressing this idea.

    2. avatar Rick K. says:

      Yes, it does sound as though “other armed law enforcement” is “without proper firearms training”, per all the examples given.

  20. avatar FlamencoD says:

    “…This policy [banning DA staff ownership of handguns at home] was [originally] established to absolutely avoid the dangers posed by armed, ununiformed lawyers working in charged situations like crime scenes, with other armed law enforcement, without proper firearms training, to prevent friendly fire tragedies like those that have occurred in recent years in Nassau County and neighboring jurisdictions. Including:”
    Is this not the most ridiculous statement made? She is saying that she doesn’t want her ADAs to have guns because they might not be trained as well as the officers, yet she gives 5 or 6 examples of officers shooting others, not lawyers shooting anyone. Anti-gunners are idiots.

  21. avatar FedUp says:

    Staff Can Now Own Handguns at Home…Without Being Fired…and Without Being Promoted…

  22. avatar Chris says:

    Geez, even more info that makes the NYPD sound like its full of a bunch of untrained jumpy idiots.

  23. avatar Gringo Cracker says:

    Judging from the list of incidents cited by the acting DA to support the revised policy, armed lawyers don’t seem to be a problem, as much as it pains me to admit it. Trigger-happy LEOs is more like it.

  24. avatar John Gancho says:

    For a liberal, that woman is a fox.

  25. Still sounds like “infringing” Also sounds like a cluster duck. Gun control = TREASON. The school shooting is tragic and about as far away from Texas with its lawful campus carry. Why didn’t this dirtbag go to Texas to show how tough he really is? THIS is why people should not be harassed about carrying guns.
    No double standards put DC politicians on Obamacare and SS.Thanks for your support and vote. Pass the word. mrpresident2016.com

  26. avatar DaveC says:

    I don’t know…unarmed lawyers does not sound like such a bad thing to me. Okay, just kidding. I simply would not work for any organization that told me I could not own weapons. Nor one that required me to report my owning weapons. So, seems to me either these folks can vote with their feet (they are lawyers and can get work anywhere), or they must agree with the policy. Just my 2 cents worth.

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