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Is Self-Defense Legal in New York?

State of the Union: New York prosecutors once again target a man acting in self defense.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. (Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Yesterday, a 65-year-old New York man was charged with illegally possessing a firearm after shooting and killing a would-be mugger in a dark alley. Charles Foehner of Queens killed Cody Gonzalez, a 32-year-old with a long rap sheet, after the latter approached him demanding money and cigarettes and wielding what Foehner thought was a knife. Gonzalez was holding a pen, but watching his erratic behavior and steady approach of the retreating Foehner, it is clear, barring some unforeseen information, that Foehner acted reasonably in pulling the trigger given the circumstances. Foehner is a licensed gun owner, but the specific firearm he used to kill Gonzalez was unregistered.

The New York Daily News reported that New York prosecutors are considering tacking on additional, more serious charges to the gun rap. If they do—and frankly, even if they don't, given the gun charges—we'll be looking at a case very similar to the one Alvin Bragg was forced to drop last year against a bodega owner who killed an intruder. These days, everything seems to go in New York City, except self-defense.


Editor's note: A previous version of this piece claimed that Jose Alba, the New York bodega owner who killed an intruder last year, used a gun to do so. In fact, he used a knife.