Friday, July 30, 2010

Murder-Suicide Case Raises Questions About Right to Bear Arms

On June 27, Anthony John Ricardulli, 55, was arrested after a domestic disturbance at his home along a country road in the small historic town of Hyde Park in upstate NY. He had allegedly shoved his wife down stairs, struck her with part of a child safety gate broken during the fall, and menaced his family with a shotgun. In all he was charged with three felonies and two misdemeanors. Bail was set at $25,000. Three long-guns and several hunting knives were confiscated from the home.

After one month in the county jail, bail was posted and Ricardulli was released. Two days later at their home, in the early morning hours of July 29, he shot and killed his wife Linda, 47, before turning the gun on himself. Both died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head. Present at the time of the shootings was their 17 year-old daughter, who phoned 911 when her father first shot her mother, inflicting a non-fatal wound at about 4 a.m. It wasn't until about 4:50 a.m. that he delivered the fatal shots as police entered the home. Two younger children were not at home at the time of the incident. The 17 year-old daughter escaped without serious physical injury.

At this time it is not known where the perpetrator obtained the .38 caliber pistol used in the attack.

In the aftermath, the outrage of the community appears to be focused on the failure of the legal system to prevent this tragedy, with a side-dish of militant feminism pointing finger at what they see as the evil scourge of males in our society. For the discerning reader, it should not need to be pointed out that gender bias is an erroneous argument at best. There are countless incidents of women attacking, mutilating, stalking and murdering men, as well as having them imprisoned on false allegations. So, we won't waste any more time on that. Let us instead focus on the “nanny-state” mentality of this community, and gun control. The truth of the matter is that the courts and the police cannot protect you. Only you can protect you. The police are there to clean up the mess, and the courts to assign blame, after an event has occurred. Prevention is not in their mandate, nor should it be lest we give-way to the prosecution of thought-crimes, and arbitrary imprisonment of persons who have committed no crime at all but whom the courts deem unfit for society.

It makes little practical difference whether this man was able to make bail, or if he spent the next 20 years in prison only to then get out and seek his revenge. Many have berated the judge who set bail in the original case, for what they see as an error in not setting the bail much higher than $25,000. What these folks fail to recognize is that this man was convicted of no crime, only that he was accused. Bail is not a punitive measure, it is only meant to secure flight from justice. The judge had no way of knowing that this man was going to go out and do something like this. Thousands upon thousands of domestic-violence cases come before the courts that never end in such tragedy. Many of these cases turn out to be unfounded, others are resolved through counseling and civil proceedings. Even those cases in which a criminal conviction is secured there is still no guarantee that the perpetrator will not commit another violent crime after the sentenced has been served. It is obviously a tragedy that this man did what he did, but that does not mean that he was not entitled to due-process, nor that any of us should be stripped of our due-process in the future because of it.

If we are going to assign blame to the legal system, rather than the perpetrator himself, there are other matters that can be examined. First we can look at the botched tactical entry by police. Although the woman was shot once already when police were first called, she was in fact still alive when the first responder from the Sheriff's department entered the house. He then retreated from the house to call in the help of the specialized Emergency Services Unit. The woman was still alive for about 50 minutes between the time she was first wounded and when the man delivered the fatal shot. He shot himself in the head as police were advancing toward him in the hallway. It is not known if a negotiator was able to establish contact with the gunman, or precisely how events unfolded at the scene second by second and what protocols were practical as a result, but it seems quite clear that the police presence was an agitating factor further enflaming the situation rather than de-escalating it. Perhaps matters could have been handled more delicately from a psychological standpoint, or from a tactical standpoint, that the woman life might have been saved by a different application of force. Having said that, it does appear that this man was hellbent on destruction, and there was probably little that the police could do to alter the outcome. That point underscores the premise that the police cannot protect you.

The only thing that might have saved this woman's life is if she had been willing and able to defend herself. No one but her could possibly know any better what a credible threat this man was. Accordingly, she should have been armed and prepared to defend herself. As noted above, the court ordered weapons removed from the house, including three firearms. The judge, and the victim herself possibly, erroneously believed that removing the weapons would remove the threat. Guns are a tool, nothing more. They were never the threat. Had the guns been left in the house, the woman, or the teen daughter, might very well have been able to use those tools to eliminate the real threat, rather than being lured into a false sense of security. The threat was actually increased when the guns were removed from the home, not only for those reasons, but also because their mere presence as a deterrent was also removed. When this man initiated his crime, he knew that his family would not expect him to be armed, and he also knew that the guns had been removed from the home leaving them unarmed. At this time it is not known how he obtained the pistol used in this crime, but for the sake of argument, we can assume that it was illegal for him to have in his possession. So we see that legislative restrictions on the Constitution have come to deadly consequences, rather than saving lives. The legal guns were forfeit, while the armed criminal murdered with impunity.

Obviously, the man himself is the truly guilty party in this mess. But if we are to examine outside factors that appear to have allowed this tragedy to occur, we have to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Do we blame the courts for failure to act, or society at large for our naivety? Why do we continually put so much faith into a system that fails us at nearly every turn? Is giving even more power to that system really the answer, or a knee-jerk response by reactionaries who believe that the state can fix all of the problems of the world? The culpability of the court rests not in that they did too little, but that they did too much, in taking away the tools by which that family might have protected themselves from a deranged man. Assuming of course that the victims were willing to defend themselves. Or were they infected by the pervasive mentality of this community that we should rely on others to protect us, who can't protect us, instead of protecting ourselves? Did that woman raise any objection to the judge's order, and defend her own right to keep and bear arms in the face of imminent danger? If so, then the court is culpable. If not, then we as a society are culpable, for leading her and others like her to believe that we will be there to defend them, with our pieces of paper signed by judges and crime-scene tape wrapped around shattered illusions.

Links to the local newspaper reports on the story can be found here, including a photo of the man and the house:


  1. What questions? There should be no question, the right to keep and bear arms is one of the most cherished and important freedoms we have in this country.

    So who gives a shit if this murderer killed his wife and himself. Shouldn't ruin it for the rest of the 300 million people in the states.

    If he didn't have a gun he would have used a sword, or a bat, or any other blunt object. Hit her with a car, or drive the car into a ditch with her in it. If he wanted to kill her, he would do it, its just that using a firearm was the easiest and most cowardly way.

  2. It's just too bad the judge in this case took the guns from the home, that the woman might have used to defend herself and her daughter.



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