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NY District Attorney Prohibits Prosecutors from Keeping Guns
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A ban on keeping guns, even at home, sparked outcry at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

Summary: A ban on keeping guns, even at home, has sparked outcry at the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

According to The New York Times, a New York District Attorney’s decision to prohibit her prosecutors from keeping handguns, even in their own homes, has triggered a heated debate. Should prosecutors be allowed to carry handguns?

  
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Last week, the Nassau County District Attorney’s office lightened up on the policy. However, attorneys are still not allowed to carry their guns to the office.

Some prosecutors are relieved, and think their workplace is safer without the presence of guns. Other district attorneys want to have the option of carrying because their jobs have serious safety concerns. One district attorney has offered to pay the fees associated with applying for gun permits so that prosecutors may carry their weapons. The debate continues.

Last year, a group of celebrities joined together to make a video in protest of gun violence.

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William Fitzpatrick, the president of the National District Attorneys Association, says, “There are cases where you’re physically in danger if you’re an assistant DA.” Currently, each DA decides whether its prosecutors may carry guns.

Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick



Fitzpatrick, who also serves as the DA in Syracuse, acknowledged the inherent dangers of the job, saying, “It’s not unique for a prosecutor to be the subject of threats.”

Over twelve prosecutors have been killed over the past century in the United States. At least eight were killed while working. In 2013, a North Texas DA, an assistant prosecutor, and the DA’s wife were murdered in what law enforcement called a revenge plot by a former justice of the peace. The gunman lost his job after being convicted of stealing county equipment. He was convicted for the killing of the wife, but has not yet been tried for the deaths of the DA and the assistant prosecutor.

In 2006, the Nassau County DA’s office had different concerns in mind when it implemented the no-gun policy. The policy allowed exceptions to be granted by the DA, but, when asked, the office was not sure whether anyone had applied for such an exception.

Last year, a judge in Washington, D.C. struck down a ban on carrying handguns.

The goal of the policy was to “avoid the dangers posed by armed, ununiformed lawyers working in charged situations like crime scenes.” For example, friendly fire was a concern. Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the office, said that the policy was meant “to ensure the safety and comfort of staff, victims and witnesses.”

Should prosecutors be able to carry guns to work?

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Of course, accidents may always happen when guns are involved. In 2013, a Waco, Texas prosecutor accidentally fired a colleague’s handgun, sending a bullet through the window and into the wall of a neighboring jail.

The Nassau County DA’s policy appears to be an outlier among New York offices. In Suffolk County and New York City’s five boroughs, employees are allowed to own firearms. However, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Brooklyn prohibit employees from bringing guns to their office buildings.

In California, many offices list certain situations in which deputy DAs are allowed to have concealed weapons. In Pennsylvania, the DAs’ group suggested guidelines for prosecutors carrying guns at a 2014 security training session.

In some rural areas in Texas, prosecutors are encouraged to carry guns as additional courtroom security. However, many assistant prosecutors must lock their weapons in their offices, according to Shannon Edmonds, a staff attorney at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association. People seem to be split on whether prosecutors should have to keep their weapons in plain view when they bring them into the courtroom.

Edmonds

Edmonds

Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado allows its wait staff to carry loaded guns while working.

Eugene Volokh, a UCLA constitutional law professor, recently argued in the Washington Post that the Nassau County DA’s rule was unconstitutionally broad. On Facebook, the National Rifle Association asked how “the ban possibly could contribute to the ‘safety and comfort’ of anybody, except criminals who would seek to victimize prosecutors.’ According to Fox News, Volokh added, “I’m not arguing they should have extra rights beyond what everyone else has; I’m arguing they should have the same rights.”

Now, the policy at the Nassau County DA’s office says that prosecutors may own guns; they just can’t bring them to work.

Madeline Singas, acting DA, said, “I’m satisfied that we are ensuring that everyone’s rights are protected.”

Singas

Singas

According to TheBlaze.com, the NRA has also stated, “Thanks to Singas’ policy, Nassau County prosecutors will be finding themselves especially exposed, should they be forced to confront an aggrieved offender bent on doing them or their innocent family members harm. The policy will also ensure that armed offenders have the upper hand in any such confrontation.”

Joel Abelove, Rensselaer DA, offered to pay for permit fees and training for his assistant prosecutors. He said, “To say you are forbidden from exercising a constitutional right that can protect yourself and your family—I can’t imagine a district attorney would want to do that…We deal with dangerous criminals who know us, who see us around. You don’t get to pick the time or place when a criminal decides they want to attack you.”

Abelove

Abelove

Source: New York Times

Photo credit: teachingmensfashion.com, theblaze.com (Singas), syracuse.com (Fitzpatrick), festival.texastribune.org (Edmonds), timesunion.com (Abelove)



 

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