There is an interesting controversy out of New York county where Acting District Attorney, Madeline Singas in Nassau County has prohibited prosecutors from owning a handgun. This is a curious way for an “acting” district attorney to start if she wants to be an actual district attorney since I believe that rule is unconstitutional. Prosecutors like other citizens have a second amendment right to own a gun. [Update: Singas has withdrawn her clearly unconstitutional condition on prosecutors]
We have previously seen New York prosecutors get into trouble with handguns, but that is no more reason to ban gun ownership than it is to deny other protected rights like free speech due to improper public comments.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office on New York’s Long Island bars even legal guns at home without a special exception from Singas. The application for the office now states:
[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 wonder if an applicant can score extra points by pointing out that the office application states an unconstitutional condition for employment.
The Nassau County District Attorney’s Office insists that “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.”
First of all, the application does not suggest that anyone is being “asked . . . not to possess handguns.” It says that they are not permitted. Second, it is hard to see how a ban on home guns would add comfort to “staff, victims, and witnesses.” Finally, whatever the desire of the office, it cannot make people feel more comfortable than denying a protected right to others in this context.
Gene Volokh deserves credit for raising this issue and has pointed out that N.Y. Labor Code § 201-d protects any “lawful, leisure-time activity, for which the employee receives no compensation and which is generally engaged in for recreational purpose” that is included in the subcategory of “hobbies” and conducted “off of the employer’s premises and without use of the equipment or other property.”
It is astonishing to me that Singas would create and retain what I view as a clearly unconstitutional condition for employment.
What do you think?