I’m no fan of the death penalty, having concluded that its massive costs outweigh its obvious justice and that its deterrent effect is next to nothing, given the decades-long due process gauntlet that the courts have imposed on its exercise. I also have tended to defer to police chiefs on gun control: every chief I know wants fewer guns, illegal and legal, not more, in the public domain. Being a sissified urban dweller with no instinctive urge to own a gun or visceral identification with NRA-types, I have been happy to follow their lead. The idea of a greater number of periodically irrational human beings walking around armed to the teeth has not filled me with a sense of security.
But this heart-warming story of a 72-year-old restaurant supply store owner in Harlem who blasted away four armed thugs who tried to rob his business yesterday, killing two and wounding the other two, has me reconsidering. Some delicious details: After one of the primeval-scum robbers started pistol-whipping an employee of proprietor Charles Augusto, Jr., Mr. Augusto “rose from a chair 20 to 30 feet away and took out a loaded Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun .. . and fired three blasts in rapid succession,” according to the New York Times. Mr. Augusto had bought the rifle after being robbed 30 years ago. “The first shot took down the gunman at the front,” who died almost immediately; the second two shots hit all three accomplices, who stumbled bleeding out of the store. One died after having been taken to a local hospital (at whose expense?); the other two were picked up on the basis of their blood trail and witness descriptions and also treated at the hospital.
(The Times of course supplies us with what it must intend as heart-wrenching images of friends and relatives of the robbers wailing and slamming their fists into light poles in despair, and notes that a bystander “sympathized with Mr. Augusto, but not with the would-be robbers.” How odd!)
Mr. Augusto has not been arrested, and I would hope that the Manhattan DA would not dare to bring criminal charges against him.
As I say, I have not heretofore been persuaded by the argument that the solution to crime is ubiquitous civilian gun-carrying. But I readily concede that this triumph of good over evil could arguably do as much to deter commerical robberies in Harlem, at least for a while, as the NYPD’s brilliant Compstat tactics.
(More good crime and police news today: A grand jury has declined to indict NYPD Officer Andrew Dunton in the tragic fatal shooting of fellow Officer Omar Edwards this May.)
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