Wednesday, July 28, 2010

In Their Own Words - Alan Kachalsky and Christina Nikolov

Over the last few years we have come to know and respect the courage and tenacity of Dick Heller and Otis McDonald (and their fellow plaintiffs) as they fought the District of Columbia and Chicago respectively. We learned that Mr. Heller was an armed security guard trusted to protect the court buildings in DC but not trusted to have a handgun in his home to protect he and his family. Likewise, we came to know Mr. McDonald, a courageous African-American gentleman with a quiet dignity, who just wanted to protect his family with a handgun after being threatened by the drug dealers targeting his neighborhood.

But what do we know about the plaintiffs in the case of Kachalsky et al v. Cacace et al - the Westchester, New York case that challenges New York's pistol permit law? If you depended upon the media or "authorized journalists" as David Codrea calls them, nothing. Absolutely nothing. It is as if post-McDonald the media considers gun rights old news not worthy of their time and talent.

Doing a Google search on Alan Kachalsky, I find that he is an attorney in private practice in Westchester County. Going to Martindale-Hubbell (law directory), I can learn that he is a graduate of New York Law School and that he has been licensed to practice since 1981.

Likewise, doing a similar search for Christina Nikolov, I find that she is the Director of Research for ChartWatchCentral, a web-based service offering technical analysis and research on stocks to investors. I also found out that she is a 1LT in the Civil Air Patrol, a licensed single and multi-engine commercial pilot, and a certified flight instructor.

This is all good information and it tells us that they are solid citizens and accomplished in their professions. But it doesn't tell the how and the why of the lawsuit nor does it tell us what they hope to change with their lawsuit (other than being granted their permits). Because I was curious, I contacted them by email and sent them a set of questions. I got lucky. They were gracious enough to answer my questions. The questions and each of their unedited responses are below.

First, why did you become a plaintiff in this case? What was it that convinced you to take a stand against those who denied you a pistol permit for failing to show "good cause"?

Alan Kachalsky

My story is that for various reasons, I decided a few years ago that it was time to get a pistol permit. I picked up an application in Westchester County, and filled it out as best as I could. I saw the choices for target this, and business carry, and full carry. My purpose was for self-defense, so I applied for a concealed carry permit (only). I filled out the ‘Attachment -full carry’ form which asked me to ‘list all factors which I believe to be relevant to establish proper cause for the issuance of a firearm license for the purpose of full carry.’

I responded:

***********The factors which establish proper cause for the issuance to myself of a Full Carry pistol Permit are: 1) The Second Amendment of the Constitution grants citizens the right to bear arms. As a citizen, I am therefore entitled to exercise my Constitutional right to bear arms. I believe that Constitutional right entitles me to the permit without further the need to establish “proper cause.”

If the issuing agency for some reason requires more than this, then I will cite the fact that we live in a world sporadic random violence might at any moment place one in a position where one needs to defend oneself or possibly others, e.g. random shootings in universities (Virginia Tech), post offices, airline check-in counters, malls, road rage, as well as the run-of-the-mill street muggings and robberies. While the odds of finding oneself in a Virginia Tech type situation are remote, one must reflect that had there been even one armed person, the death toll might have been considerably less than 31 dead. While one never knows what one might do in such situations, it is my belief that it is better to have the option to defend oneself (and others) than not to have the option. As a pilot and a skydiver, I have been trained to handle emergencies, and I have actually handled several emergencies, so it is unlikely that I will respond in a dangerous manner. *********

I submitted the application along with the Affidavits, etc., and crossed my fingers hoping to get it approved.

Much to my disappointment, many months later, I received the decision denying my application on the grounds that I did not demonstrate a need for self-protection beyond that of the general public.

Although I had heard that it was quite difficult to get a carry permit, I felt it was my Constitutional right, and it annoyed me that some bureaucrat had the right to sit and decide whether I demonstrated ‘a need for self-protection. . .” What does that mean anyway? And who gave this bureaucrat the right to sit in judgment and say, no, you don’t have a need . . .

Christina Nikolov
My 2nd Amendment rights were being violated by Westchester County. Whenever I have the opportunity or means to do so, I always take a stand for what I believe in. For example, I once fought a traffic ticket all the way to the NY Appellate Court, when I knew I did nothing wrong, and won without an attorney to assist me, since no lawyers wanted to help.

How did you become a plaintiff in this case? Were you recruited or did you contact the Second Amendment Foundation or Mr. Gura?

Sorry, we can’t talk about that.

I contacted Mr. Gura. Prior to this litigation, I already knew Alan Kachalsky, who was also denied for his permit. He already had this litigation in the works with Mr. Gura. I was not recruited and never contacted the 2nd Amendment Foundation.

What is your background with firearms (hunting/target shooting/self-defense)? Are you a longtime shooter or relatively new to guns?

My background is that I shot rifles when I was a kid in Summer Camp for about three summers. I went to a shooting range once when a friend invited me, and perhaps three or four times over the years when friends had pistols.

I have been a gun owner for almost 5 years and only shoot paper targets. I do not go hunting. I have taken three 6 hour firearm courses, two of which were in Florida. Each of the Florida courses involved 400+ rounds of live fire, while the New York course does not involve any gun firing. Actually, in NY you cannot even touch a real gun during your six hours of training because it is against the law, so I have more practical experience taking courses in Florida than anyone who has ever taken the firearm course required to be licensed in NY.

What has been your experience since the lawsuit was filed? Have you been contacted by the media? Have friends or colleagues who know of the suit asked you about it? If so, what has been their reaction?

Nope. No contact from the media. Friends and family are supportive.

I have not been contacted by the media yet. Very few people have said anything to me about the lawsuit and as a matter of fact, many people I have mentioned the lawsuit to were not even aware of it. Reactions have been unanimously positive. Everyone I mentioned this to wished me well with the case.

Finally, in addition to being granted your permit, what would you like to see come out of this lawsuit?

The outcome I am looking for would be precisely the relief requested in the Complaint - that carry permits are granted to law-abiding citizens who meet the criteria of New York Penal Code § 400.00:

(1), in that each (a) is over 21 years old, (b) of good moral character, (c) has never been convicted of a felony or serious crime, (d) has never been mentally ill or confined to any institution, (e) has not had a license revoked or been the subject of a family court order, (f) has completed a firearms safety course, and (g) should not be denied a permit other than for any good cause.

What I wish to see come of this lawsuit is first of all, for me to obtain my unrestricted carry permit. But I would also like to see the law changed, to allow responsible people to own and carry firearms if they want to and are competent. NY needs to change its backwards way of looking at things and realize that criminals are committing crimes and that restricting gun ownership of people who obey the law only helps the criminals, since the criminals will always find ways to obtain firearms regardless of how strict the gun laws are.

I want to thank both Alan and Christina for taking the time to answer my questions so fully. I think we all owe them a debt of gratitude even if we live in an area where gun rights are respected and  "shall issue" concealed carry permits are the norm.

You can read the details of the lawsuit including the complaint in my earlier blog post here.

1 comment:

  1. "Much to my disappointment, many months later, I received the decision denying my application on the grounds that I did not demonstrate a need for self-protection beyond that of the general public."

    So I assume that Westchester County's official position is that only a certain elite who demonstrate sufficient cause, rather than the general public, are entitled to other Constitutional rights (e.g., free speech, assembly, habeas corpus, trial by jury) as well. Why am I not surprised?