Do stupid things, pay the price

I’m frustrated and angry to read that a man in Washington state is facing charges after firing a warning shot at someone trying to break into his home.  This is something that’s stressed in every shooting course I’ve ever taken, and in every qualifying course for a concealed carry permit.  If you fire a shot, whether or not it’s aimed at anyone (or no-one), you’ve just employed lethal force!  It may not have caused lethal (or any) damage, but it still had the potential to do so, therefore it’s legally classified in the same way.

I’ve taught for years (and been taught) that the only reason you’re legally allowed to use lethal force in almost every state is to prevent or avert an illegal, immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat of death or serious injury to you or those for whom you are legally responsible.  Some states stretch that a bit with ‘stand your ground’ laws, or allow you to intervene to protect even a stranger if you believe they’re the victim of a criminal assault;  others don’t.  A warning shot does nothing in and of itself to avert danger – it only delivers a warning – but since the use of a firearm is classified as lethal force, it means you may well be charged with the inappropriate or illegal use of lethal force.  That’s the way it is, Hollywood notwithstanding.  If you’re convicted, you may have a felony charge on your record for the rest of your life, and lose your Second Amendment and other rights forever.

I hope many gun owners learn from the plight of Mr. Thompson.  I’m sorry he didn’t think this through ahead of time.



  1. A warning shot is a waste of ammunition – the first warning shot should be through the heart, the second, through the head…

    That is a warning to anyone with the first.

  2. This happened in Medford, Oregon, according to the actual article, not Washington State as Peter mentioned. We Washingtonians are too self-disciplined and well trained for such a mistake.

    Or, maybe that is just me.

  3. Unfortunately he should have allowed his home intruder to enter the home, endanger his family and use deadly force.Being a veteran and with his training they will look down on him when considering his actions, this will affect his life and future with potential charges. I wish him the best of luck.

  4. Heh! Keep a starter pistol loaded with blanks for the "warning shot," and the real thing right beside it to follow up with!

    No, no, don't jump me anyone! I know that's bad advice for too many reasons. I just couldn't resist.

  5. "the only reason you're legally allowed to use lethal force in almost every state is to prevent or avert an illegal, immediate and otherwise unavoidable threat of death or serious injury to you or those for whom you are legally responsible."

    How then are police allowed to use deadly force when a "suspect" is fleeing?

    Isn't it because of the danger that "suspect" poses to others?

    But wait . . . a cop is not LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE for anyone. So says, repeatedly, the Supreme Court.

    Using straight-forward logic, we should be clamoring for police disarmament.

    After all, we are our own first repsonders.

  6. The defense can call Joe Biden as an expert witness. After all the VICE PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA told him to fire a warning shot, who is a poor man in the PacNW to question such wisdom and authority?
    Who wouldn't vote to convict.

  7. Carl ID'd the real problem here: according to the accounts, the perp was FLEEING the scene when the shot was fired. That's a problem.

    Carl: in Milwaukee, a UW-Milwaukee campus cop shot a car thief several times IN THE BACK as the stolen car rolled past the cop.

    No charges were filed, no discipline was given.

  8. The Bill of Rights was not added to the Constitution to carve out new rights to be protected by the government. It was written to recognize some of the preexisting rights that every person has. The government can infringe your 2nd Amendment rights, just like the 1st, the 4th, and the rest, but it can not take them away and you can't lose them. They are natural rights, or God given rights, depending on your how you believe.

    Using convictions to strip people of the exercise of their rights is an immoral use of government power, not a legitimate function of the federal government.

    I grant you that it happens all the time and you are correct that he will lose his firearms and never own one again, but his rights are inviolate.

    I brought this up because words and ideas are important and it seems to me to be playing to a false way of thinking to talk of losing rights.

  9. The issue isn't that he was fleeing; some states do -technically- allow that, if the perp committed a serious enough crime (you'll still likely see a jury, though).

    The issue isn't that it was a property crime, and therefore "no threat" to the homeowner. Several states also allow deadly force to stop property crimes. See above w/re: a jury, but you still stand a decent chance in your defense.

    The issue is that he fired a warning shot.

    Practically speaking, there really isn't a difference between a warning shot or a miss. Both are loud, both put a bullet where it won't do much good, and both stand a chance of hitting something you don't want perforated. Whether you're shooting at the ground, or at the suspect, the intended recipient of the -effects- of the gunfire, physical or psychological, is the suspect. If you're not justified in shooting him at all, you're not justified in psychologically "shooting" him either.

    Also remember the bullet from a warning shot, or a missed shot, ends up -somewhere-. Remember your intended target, and what lies behind, beyond, and to the sides of it. That bullet's gonna wind up somewhere, and you don't want to know the price tag of the lawyer attached to that missed/warning shot.

    Remember, deadly force in self defense is usually allowed in cases where you are, or reasonably believe you are, in imminent danger of physical injury and/or death. If you're -not- justified in shooting the suspect, then it's not a deadly-force situation, period. But by firing that "warning shot," you have now put the -suspect- in a situation where -he- now believes his life is in danger. A lawyer could fairly easily twist this around to make you into the aggressor/attacker, escalating the situation and attempting murder. Or, should the suspect return fire and kill you, that same lawyer could now argue the -suspect- was acting in self-defense, never mind he initiated the conflict.

    You'll notice that no police agency in the country trains their officers to fire "warning shots," but instead trains them to fire center-mass of the visible target, from the first shot to the bottom of the last magazine.

    If you are justified in shooting, if you are justified in using deadly force, then make such force, such shot, as effective as possible. If you are not justified, do not do it. You can display your firearm to stop the crime (cops do that all the time), but do not fire, ever, unless you are justified by law in doing so. Some states mandate duty to retreat, no defense of property, etc. Others allow firing to prevent the fleeing of a felony, or to protect property at night, or have no duty to retreat, etc.

    Know your state law. Know what you can and cannot legally do to protect yourself and your property in your state.
    … Know what laws you're willing to run afoul of, if any, in the defense of your life and your own.

    And do not, ever, fire a warning shot!

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