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Jacob Weighs in on ABC Story About Warning Shots

Jan 2016 ABC 02

About a year and a half ago I had the opportunity to speak to the local ABC Denver team to chime in on an incident where a supposed bounty hunter chased a robbery suspect out of a Subway store, first firing warning shots into the air and then toward the robber's car in order to prevent his escape.

These are always fun interviews because I have to speak to the situation based on a limited number of known facts (at the time) and I always hope I don't say anything that will generate too much hate mail later. You can watch the news story here, but I want to repeat here some of the core principles that I spoke about during the interview because it is important, and there is a lot of misinformation concerning “warning shots” and if it's ever okay to fire one off.

Warning Shots Are Almost Always A Bad Idea

On some logical level, warning shots sound like a good idea. It would seem an effective way to deter a criminal from committing a crime or wanting to escape from one but as a general rule warning shots are a bad idea. Here are some reasons why:

  • You are accountable for every bullet that leaves the firearm. Where do you think those warning shots are going to go? You probably don't know but I can promise they don't fly out into space and continue on to an uncharted planet.
  • Firing warning shots has a few legal implications; specifically it's a really good way for a prosecutor to prove that you had enough time to think and act before any lives were actually in danger.
  • Warning shots are a really effective way to reduce the amount of ammunition you have available in your gun when you might actually need the ammunition to defend lives.

We Can't Justify, Ethically or Legally, Using Deadly Force to Protect Property

Stuff is stuff. Life is life. While I often hear a lot of people in the gun community speak about how good it is to kill criminals and rid the world of them I'm more inclined to believe that my job is not to judge if people deserve to live or not, nor am I likely capable of doing so.

My job is to defend lives where necessary by acting in a way that I believe will adequately stop the threat. So when we are talking about someone who has stolen something or has in some way put property at risk I have a hard time imagining any way in which we would be justified in using deadly force unless we feel it necessary to also defend human life.

Furthermore, “just fire a warning shot” is some of the worst advice we hear people get whenever they come to our classes and tell us what they've been told in the past. This is something that needs to be shared with your friends, both new and seasoned concealed gun carriers. This incident occurred in Colorado and state and local laws may vary where you live but hopefully these principles make sense regardless.

We offer a great resource designed to help you understand gun laws better, and trust me when I say that gun laws are a tangled web that you need to have a solid understanding of if you're serious about self-defense. It's a sad truth that well-intentioned folks get jammed up more often than they should just because they did not have a solid understanding of what was expected of them.

To up your gun law knowledge, purchase our American Gun Law Package where an actual, former federal prosecutor gives over eight (8) hours of valuable lessons and actionable knowledge your brain will carry wherever you go. For more information, click on the image below:

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6 Responses to Jacob Weighs in on ABC Story About Warning Shots

  1. George Wiessner January 21, 2016 at 9:19 am #

    Mr Paulsen:

    I am 80 years old and still very active. There are a lot of hoodlooms close by.
    They roam around mostly at night. They have stolen from me, about all they could carry.
    That is possible because we live in a secluded area. According to police reports $36,000.00 worth at the last incident.
    Should I be confronted or let’s say attacked, would I be justyfied using my weapon.
    I am no match, physically, to these much younger guys.
    Of course you do not know ahead of time what they can do to you and just brandishing a gun and to scare them but not firing could result in the thing being taken away from you and shot with your own gun.

    George Wiessner

    George Wiessner

    • Hoppahoale' July 20, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

      George it’s called Disparity of Force. If you are 80 going up against someone younger and stronger and they are in the act of causing you great bodily harm or death you could be justified. Also, if your are being immenently attacked, because of your age it might lead to great bodily harm or death compared to someone much younger. If you are going to pull a firearm you shoot, don’t wait to see if it scares them off. Don’t fire warning shots either. If you are going to shoot it has to be with intention and every round you fired was with intent, no saying, “I don’t know what happened I just started shooting”, a couple reasons, first, a prosecuting attorney could argue since you didn’t fire that means the attack wasn’t serious enough for you to shoot, therefore why did you brandish a weapon? Same with warning shots, a number of things can be held against you in court, or if you say you just started shooting you don’t remember, a prosecuting attorney can reply and argue that since you don’t know what happened you just started shooting that means you didn’t have control of the firearm, also, never fire at someone in the dark, firing blind, your target must be seen and you have to know the target your shooting at. As with Disparity of Force it goes the same if you are handicapped, doesn’t matter age, if a 20 year old who weighs 120 pounds and is enemic or has a handicap is attacked by someone who weighs 200 pounds and much stronger then Disparity of Force could apply. I am not a lawyer yet I do study lethal force laws and what happens to good people. Some might not agree with my statements but I get them from what I read and what happens to good people. Another poster commented that if you “feel” it might be immenent , sorry, you cannot use lethal force on a feeling or a thought, that’s what immenent means, it has to be happening right now, you cannot “feel” like the person following you is going to attack you so you pull your gun out you will go to jail, plus if you do pull your gun if the person following you hasn’t done anything then they have every right to protect themselves even if they are up to no good, since they haven’t done anything immenent.

  2. straycatny61 February 1, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    George, as Jacob stated, laws vary from state to state, as well as County and town to county and town. Generally speaking, if the hoodlums are IN your home, you are justified in shooting them. Likewise, if you feel you are in imminent danger of being physically harmed or killed, shooting is justified. DO NOT fire a warning shot. Aim carefully and squeeze the trigger. Remember, stuff is stuff. Protect life.

    • Hoppahoale' July 20, 2017 at 5:37 pm #

      Strata I see this is an old reply, you stated that if you “feel” that you are in immenent danger. Sorry, lethal force cannot be used based on a feeling or a thought. Immenent means happening right now. You cannot “feel” like immenent danger, death or great bodily harm is going to happen. Also, shooting someone regardless if self defense is illegal and always treated as a homicide. Whether or not your illegal action was justified has to be determined. “Feeling” is the same thing as me being followed and I had a feeling I am going to be harmed so if I brandish a firearm or weapon on a feeling nothing else then the other person would have every right to defend themselves even if they were up to no good since the attack wasn’t immenent, happening right now. Don’t let the tables get turned against you just because you had a feeling or a thought.

  3. LT B July 20, 2017 at 6:36 am #

    As a ‘STRACK’ NCO once said: “So-and-so, don’t you give us no trouble; if you do, the first shot is going dead in your ass, and the next one will be the ‘warning shot’…..we had NO trouble.

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