One morning last December, while working at my desk at home, I saw an intruder peering into my house, trying windows and doors. I didn’t know his intentions, or whether he was armed, but he seemed intent on breaking in. My first instinct was to grab a loaded handgun and brace myself for a confrontation. Then I thought twice. I sneaked out of the house and called the police. They arrested him.
I wrote about the experience for the New York Times in March. It forced me to think about the value of a human life, proportional response, and the costs and benefits of avoiding a confrontation.
I received more than 100 emails from angry readers. About half scolded me for having a gun in the first place. Some were angry on philosophical/political grounds: “You have betrayed our shared liberal values by owning a gun. There is no place for guns in a civil society.” Some tried to shame me with statistics I already knew: How many people die each year shot by their own guns, and how a home with a gun is less safe than a home without one.
From the other side, I got scolded for not shooting the intruder. I became the target of a lot of pent-up frustration at increasing crime rates and homeless people (what do they have to do with it? I wondered). I was lectured to about society’s scum, stand-your-ground laws and the castle doctrine. Many accused me of cowardice. A trained security officer berated me for my hesitation in using the firearm and said I had no right owning one if I was not going to use it.
Several readers, including active-duty military and police officers, offered the practical advice that a shotgun would be more useful in a home invasion…
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