There are times when firing a gun into the air is acceptable. For instance, if you are in possession of a hunting license and a waterfowl stamp, and ducks or geese have flown into range. Or maybe your dog has just flushed a pheasant. There are even times when firing into the air in suburbia might be acceptable. Perhaps foreign paratroopers are quite literally descending on your neighborhood. OK, that’s not terribly likely, but if it ever happens, you will be well within your rights to shoot skyward.
Otherwise, firing into the air is simply stupid. What goes up, comes down, and if it lands on someone and hurts them, you deserve whatever the courts give you.
Warning shots, or shots fired to “scare” someone, are not a good idea, either, even if fired into a safe backstop. The sound is damaging to your hearing, will surely draw an extremely tense response from law enforcement, and, frankly, it’s tough to be really certain of your backstop. Shooting into the ground could result in a ricochet from a shallow rock, or strike underground utilities. Very few of us keep a good bullet trap handy for our warning shots.
But surely, if you’re going to make the dumb move of pulling the trigger to make a loud noise to scare people who are stealing property rather than threatening your life, you should not attempt to defend yourself by saying you were following Joe Biden’s advice.
Remember when Joe Biden said you didn’t need anything but a double-barreled shotgun because you could just fire a couple shots into the air to scare a burglar? Anyone with a vague hint of tactical knowledge mocked him, and as you can see at the link, U.S. News took the time to point out that his advice would land you in jail.
So it proved for Jeffery Barton. Technically, he was not convicted of illegal discharge of a firearm. He was convicted of obstruction, because he did not comply with police commands. But it seems very likely to me that the “shots fired” element to the call resulted in police being less than “polite,” as he complained. The response to a car-prowl call and to a “somebody’s shooting” call are by no means the same thing!
Barton is quoted in the article as claiming that his Second Amendment rights were being violated, and that he was, in recklessly shooting in random directions, “protecting” his family. He also invoked the “difficulty of making tactical decisions in the moment” argument.
If someone’s breaking into cars at 0300, you can confront that person if you wish. You can attempt to make a citizen’s arrest. But you had better be 100% certain you are acting 100% correctly and within the bounds of the law, because you could ALSO dial 911 and NOT put yourself into that situation where a split-second decision is required. Unless your family is actually in that car–you’re not protecting them. I certainly have no objection to confronting criminals–but damn it, do it RIGHT. Furthermore, the Second Amendment does NOT protect your right to be a reckless fool who fires shots into the air. Making that argument against a good law (don’t shoot randomly in a populous area) makes it much tougher to make the legitimate cases against foolish laws.
And finally, anyone who thinks Joe Biden gives good home-defense advice is guilty of incurable stupidity.