By Harold Moskowitz
As I sit writing this, I am transfixed by the image of split logs being consumed by the flames in my stove. The radiating warmth sheds a feeling of protective safety from the sub-freezing world outside. Yet, if this moment of tranquility were to be suddenly shattered by a home invasion, my life would change forever. In New York State, you have a “duty to retreat” from impending violence. You must attempt retreat even into the sub-freezing temperature outside. You may use deadly force only if you are confronted by imminent lethal force and have no option for retreat. In any case, your use of lethal force can change your life forever. The responding law enforcement officer will likely place you under arrest. Your firearms will probably be confiscated. A District Attorney will ask the arresting officer if any provisions of the S.A.F.E. Act had been violated. A grand jury of total strangers would get to decide whether or not you will be indicted for murder in some degree.
One would like to think that the grand jury panelists would be unbiased but considering the divisive, polarized state of society today, that assumption might be unrealistic. True, it has been said that it is better to be “tried by twelve rather than to be carried by six.” However, your legal bills could cripple your economic well-being. The invader might have had a “rap sheet” as long as your arm, but the prosecution will portray him as a “family person” popular in his neighborhood. If he had been a young adult, it will be said that he would have become an outstanding college student athlete, scientist, pastor, … fill in the blank. It will likely be claimed that your actions cut short a young life filled with promise. This nightmare could happen at any time to any firearm owner exercising the right to home defense in our state. Were “defense” cartridges used? The prosecutor might suggest that you were just “itching” to see what type of damage to human flesh could be done by such rounds. Perhaps you only wounded the invader. Your problems are not prevented. Unlike some states, New York does not prohibit civil law suits arising from legitimate acts of self defense. The invader or, if deceased, his family will likely sue you. Was his spinal cord severed, leaving him an immobile paraplegic? You could be expected to pay, to some degree, for his huge medical bills and lifelong special needs requirements. Was an alleged promising career with high earning potential “destroyed” by your bullet? The jury might decide on a large monetary judgment against you with payments extending years into the future. Yes, one’s life can change in seconds.
How much time do we have for determining whether or not the use of lethal force is required for home or self-defense? Can one accurately assess in the dim light of night whether an intruder has a long knife or firearm? Is it a real gun or a replica? What if there were two invaders? Add to that tunnel vision which comes with the adrenaline rush. An anti-gun district attorney will probably not heavily weigh such mitigating factors when urging the grand jury for an indictment or a guilty verdict at trial. Clearly, the “rules of engagement” in our state are out of step with the needs of self-preservation in our unraveling civil society. Is there a solution to district attorneys who use their anti-gun bias to destroy your life or at least your Second Amendment right to own a firearm in the future?
Many residents are seriously contemplating resettling in other states to avoid the increasingly anti-gun bias of state officials. Unlike New York, forty-six states allow some use of the common law doctrine called the “Castle Doctrine.” It is a set of principles placed into laws allowing people to use “reasonable” force, including lethal force while inside the structure in which they regularly live. It allows for deadly force to be used as justifiable homicide when the home defender “reasonably” fears potentially lethal force or serious harm to himself or to another person. It may seem impossible at the moment. However, if the millions of state gun owners: Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, and Libertarians want to change the home-defense scenario described in this article, then things don’t have to remain this way forever. Pay attention to elections, especially those for district attorneys. Volunteer time to help pro-Second Amendment candidates. Donate to them and to SCOPE -PAC. Over time, politicians respond to large, active, dedicated interest groups. Miracles do happen!