I’m a “high-powered attorney” in the same sense that a Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22 is a “high-powered assault rifle.” Sure, I may have have the appearance of being one: I work for a national law firm, dealing with cases involving huge corporations with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. At the same time, however, I’m far from the partnership fast track. That’s okay with me — the people I work with are nice, and I figure that being at home on a regular basis with wife and child count for more than a few extra bucks at the end of the year . . .
Every once in a while, though, I think about doing something else, and at those times I have contemplated a job with the federal or state government. At the end of the day, the hours are short(er), benefits are good, and the work can be interesting.
Nassau County, New York, however, just took itself out of the running, however. The policies enforced by Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas (above) make the price of admission too high for me. UCLA Professor Eugene Volokh at the Washington Post has the story.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s office bars prosecutors from having a handgun, even at home:
[A]ssistant district attorneys are not permitted to apply for a handgun permit nor own or possess a handgun while employed by the Nassau County District Attorney. Any exception to this policy must be in writing and approved by the District Attorney.
I asked the office about the reasons for the policy, and its answer was:
Our practice of asking prosecutors to not possess handguns is to ensure the safety and comfort of staff, victims, and witnesses, and is consistent with other district attorney’s offices in the New York City metropolitan area.
Okay, Nassau County’s response to Prof. Volokh’s question is vacuous, especially when you consider that staff, victims, and witnesses have to encounter police officers, federal agents, and other members of alphabet agencies who most certainly are authorized to carry firearms, and most likely are doing so. The idea that an armed attorney might – I don’t know – set off an anxiety attack in those people, or go on a shooting spree at work while an armed police officer might not is just incoherent. This is even more troubling when you consider that employees in the D.A.’s office will often find themselves prosecuting cases against some of the worst elements of society.
While I might have some sympathy for the position that the D.A. doesn’t want untrained employees bringing firearms to work and leaving them unsecured (a bit of negligence that police are not immune to) there’s absolutely no reasonable basis for a policy banning employees from owning handguns. Other than the fact that someone higher up wanted to score some political points, the constitutional rights of the employees be damned.
Just so we’re all clear, this is akin to the D.A.’s office banning its employees from having abortions, engaging in homosexual relationships, voting for Republicans, or simply being of Japanese ancestry. The fact that the office saw fit to actually enact this policy — and that its attorneys and other staff tamely agreed to it — speaks volumes about both the D.A.’s leadership, as well as the mentality of the people who have chosen to work there — all of whom are in part responsible for enforcing the law and protecting civil liberties in Nassau County.
To make matters worse, Prof. Volokh also points out a wrinkle that makes Nassau County’s gun ban even more shocking: this policy may actually be in violation of New York state law. N.Y. Labor Code § 201-d specifically states that an employer cannot “refuse to hire, employ or license, or…discharge from employment or otherwise discriminate against an individual in compensation, promotion or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of…an individual’s legal recreational activities outside work hours, off of the employer’s premises and without the use of the employer’s equipment or other property….”
Handgun collection is a “lawful, leisure-time activity, for which the employee receives no compensation and which is generally engaged in for recreational purpose”; it falls into the subcategory of “hobbies.” It’s conducted “off of the employer’s premises and without use of the equipment or other property.” And whatever the DA’s office worries about prosecutors killing their co-workers might be, those worries don’t fall within the category of “material conflict of interest.”…
So handgun collectors would likely be protected by the statute as well as the Second Amendment. The same would be true for recreational handgun target shooters, if the ban on “possessing” handguns is read broadly enough to cover possessing of a rented or borrowed gun for the duration of the activity. And ordinary handgun owners, who are interested in self-defense rather than collecting, would be protected just by the Second Amendment.
Perhaps this is also what happens to a disarmed populace. Not only are they disarmed against physical attack, but apparently they lose their willingness to defend their own constitutional and statutory rights.
Even when they are lawyers.
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.
[Hat tip: Felix.]