When a homeowner in Butler, Pennsylvania, heard the sound of someone breaking into his home, he did what many Americans would do: he grabbed his gun to protect himself and his girlfriend. An intoxicated intruder had broken into his home through his basement and Cox had to use his firearm to stop him.
However, this story is a bit different from other examples of people using guns for self-defense. In this case, the person defending himself deliberately ensured that he did not take the life of the intruder:
When Jeremy Cox encountered a stranger who had broken in through his basement, he stayed calm. He says he had his gun and fired a warning shot. When that didn’t seem to scare off the mystery intruder, he fired again.
That second shot allowed Jeremy Cox to get control of the situation and get Nathan Harvey to the ground.
“And he started to try to get up again and thankfully the police were right there when that happened and I was able to back away,” Cox said. “If they would have been two minutes later, we’d be having a different conversation, I think.”
Cox says it all happened in less than 5 minutes on Wednesday evening. He and his girlfriend heard a loud scraping and realized it was coming from a locked basement door at their Sterling Avenue home. His girlfriend grabbed the phone to call 911 while Cox grabbed his 40 caliber pistol.
“I didn’t want to kill him,” Cox said. “I didn’t want to have to take another human being’s life.”
The intruder was identified as a 43-year-old man who had already run afoul of law enforcement. Cox told reporters that the individual kept telling him that “he was afraid and was running away from the cops.” He asked Cox to hide him. The homeowner refused. “I told him the next time I’d shoot him, he wouldn’t be alive,” he recalled telling the intruder after firing a warning shot.
As with most self-defense cases, Cox’s situation underscores the importance of responsible gun ownership. The homeowner’s firearm allowed him to control the situation and ensure the safety of himself and his girlfriend instead of relying on police to show up in time to prevent a tragic situation.
However, in this situation, Cox was adamant about not killing the intruder if it was not necessary. He considered the individual’s intoxicated state and thought about the ramifications of taking his life, even though he would likely be justified in doing so. However, I’ve heard many suggest that in situations such as this, one should shoot center mass to kill instead of strategically trying to wound an assailant.
On one hand, avoiding the taking of life is laudable. It shows a respect for human life – even when the person is engaged in an evil act. Most people don’t want to take a life – even if it is justified. For example, look at how Kyle Rittenhouse broke down on the stand when recounting the situation in which he had to kill two people to protect his life. It’s the type of act that will weigh on someone forever even if they had no other choice.
Kyle Rittenhouse broke down in tears at his murder trial while on the witness stand as he described the events of Aug. 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. pic.twitter.com/bFoip1xmSg
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) November 10, 2021
The legal implications are also a factor. Depending on where one lives, one could get prosecuted for killing someone, even if it is in self-defense. The story of Jose Alba, a New York City bodega worker who killed a man who was assaulting him, illustrates this reality. The city initially tried to prosecute him for murder but relented after an outcry from the public.
Conversely, shooting to kill might be unfortunate, but it’s the right move in certain situations. Even if one manages to incapacitate an assailant, it does not mean the attacker won’t recover and continue to pose a threat. Neutralizing a bad guy ensures that they cannot take your life.
In most areas, using a firearm to defend yourself is legal. In a case like this, those doing so would be protected by the law (unless you are in New York City). In a dangerous situation, a person’s first priority should be to defend themselves and their loved ones. In the heat of the moment, it is not easy to concentrate enough to wound an attacker instead of killing him.
Either way, these are tricky ethical questions that gun owners must carefully consider. Carrying a firearm confers more responsibility on those exercising their Second Amendment rights. Every altercation is different, and it is not always as black and white as it might seem.