- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - A Long Island district attorney on Wednesday rescinded a policy that prohibited prosecutors from having handguns on and off the job after questions were raised over whether it was constitutional.

For nearly a decade, assistant district attorneys in Nassau County were barred from owning handguns. As part of the application process, prospective candidates needed to agree they wouldn’t have handguns, even at home. There was an exception that allowed the prosecutors to obtain special permission from the district attorney, but officials could not say Wednesday whether anyone had applied.

Earlier this month, University of California, Los Angeles constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh wrote for the Washington Post a blog posting that raised questions about whether the policy was constitutional and in line with the law. The policy and its surrounding controversy was the subject of several subsequent news stories, including a feature on Fox News.

And within days of the media hype, the policy was rescinded.

Under a new policy that went into effect on Wednesday, prosecutors are permitted to own handguns but can’t have them while they’re working, including at their offices and at crime scenes.

A spokesman for acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said the new policy was “appropriate” but declined to comment on what prompted the change. The spokesman, Shams Tarek, also would not answer questions about whether Singas believed the old policy was legal.

An internal office memo shows Singas asked her chief assistant, Albert Teichman, to review the policy soon after questions were raised about its constitutionality. He recommended the policy be changed, saying there should be less restrictive rules.

Volokh, the UCLA professor, said on Wednesday he was “very pleased” the policy was rescinded.

Speaking of the old rule, he said: “I think it violates the Second Amendment. I think the government can’t say, ‘Look, you can’t have a gun in your own home.’ When you’re at home trying to exercise your constitutional rights, the government has no right to intervene.”

The policy was enacted in 2006, when U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice was the Nassau County district attorney.

Rice spokesman Coleman Lamb said assistant district attorneys, when dealing with victims and witnesses and defendants, “shouldn’t be walking around armed.”

“That was the intent of the policy, and the current DA is smart to preserve that safety measure in this new policy,” Lamb said in a statement.


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