NY Governor says there's no right to self-defense

AP Photo/Hans Pennink

It’s hard to find any other interpretation of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s latest statement about the death of Jordan Neely; the mentally disturbed New York man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a Marine veteran on a NYC subway after allegedly threatening passengers. Hochul’s been taking heat from progressive activists for not immediately condemning the veteran and convicting him in the court of public opinion, as well as for her first statement after the incident, in which she vaguely spoke about “consequences for behavior”. It was unclear whether Hochul was talking about Neely or the veteran, but in her attempt to clarify her earlier remarks she also made it clear that she doesn’t think self-defense is ever justified.


“No one has the right to take the life of another person.” If Hochul truly believes that, she should be calling for police across the state to be disarmed, or at least be equipped solely with non-lethal weapons. She should demand that her fellow Democrats repeal Penal Law §35.15, which provides that “a person is justified in using physical force against another when that person is under the reasonable belief that the physical force is necessary to defend the person or another person from what the person reasonably believes to be the illegal imminent use of force or the illegal use of force.”

Will Hochul do either of those things? Of course not. Heck, she could require her own security detail use nothing but less-than-lethal arms without a single vote in the New York legislature, but there’s no way she take that step because it would impact her own safety.

When it comes to your right to self-defense, however, Hochul and her anti-gun allies are downright giddy about their infringements. From making it more expensive and time-consuming to apply for a concealed carry permit to declaring most of the state off-limits to lawfully carrying a firearm for personal protection, Hochul has not only thumbed her nose at the Supreme Court and its decision in Bruen, but has flipped the bird to all those New Yorkers who can’t afford their own security detail or have one provided to them thanks to their elected office.


Neely’s death has been ruled a homicide, but it will be up to police and prosecutors to determine whether or not the three individuals who pinned him down to the floor of the subway car after his threats broke the law in doing so. Hochul notes that Neely was unarmed but the riders on the subway car had no way of knowing that. Given the NYC subway shootings just a little more than a year ago, I’d say those on the subway car had a reasonable fear of Neely following through on his threats and were within their right to restrain him. As the New York Post has detailed, Neely had a long history of mental health issues as well as run-ins with police, including spending more than a year in jail after assaulting a 67-year-old woman in November of 2021 before he was released from Riker’s Island in February of this year (though a warrant for his arrest was issued a few weeks later). The difficult question is going to be whether the Marine veteran used “unreasonable force” by applying the chokehold, and it’s simply not as cut and dried as Hochul makes it out to be.

The same is true for Hochul’s absolutist stance on self-defense. No, you don’t have the right to take another person’s life on a whim or in the commission of a crime, but you most certainly do have the right to use deadly force to protect yourself or others if there’s a legitimate threat to life and limb. Even Hochul understands that to some degree, at least when it comes to her safety. If not, the state troopers charged with protecting her life would be carrying around stun guns and bean bag rounds.


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