“A Sunday School teacher claims he was acting in self-defense when he fired a gun in Wheeling over the weekend in the Centre Market area. Chris Harris said he was coming from church when he and his girlfriend were surrounded by nine men looking for a fight.” The thugs in question didn’t believe Harris’s gun would go bang. “The kid kept advancing on me, saying it wasn’t a real gun, and I would much rather shoot a shot into the air to prevent them from attacking me rather than them attacking me and me shooting someone.” So he fired a warning shot . . .

And the yoots took off into the mist just before the local PD arrived. A Sunday school teacher threatened while walking home from church with his girl? He’s golden, right?

Harris was cuffed and charged with wanton endangerment. He said he understand firing a gun is never a good idea, but says he was forced into it….“Wanton endangerment is placed on anyone who fires a gun and puts others at risk.” Harris is free on bond.

Should he have kept his gun holstered? Plugged one of them? Do you know when to use deadly force?

140 Responses to Question of the Day: Do You Know When to Use Deadly Force?

    • Another example,( well, all of them are) where having a video/audio recording of the incident would literally save you butt, (you know what happens in jail) so that if you go to court, you won’t be Zimmerman’d.

      I carry I-Kam extreme audio/video (I don’t represent the company) sun glasses with removable lens so you can have clear or dark lenses so they are day and night usable. One push of a button and they are recording really clear video and excellent audio.

      No he said she said.

      • The “news” URL left out a lot of details: This guy was going to his door and his fiance was in the car, when the thugs approached. The girlfriend was the one with the pistol and a CCW permit. Somehow, she ended up outside the car with her pistol drawn.

        The girlfriend – who is a “self-defense instructor” – was shaking so badly that her boyfriend took the pistol away from her, before one of the thugs did. This guy who fired the warning shot also says that both he and his girlfriend “have extensive firearms training”.

    • What I would have done would depend entirely on the situation.

      If I felt threatened, I’d shoot. If I pulled so they could not get the drop on me but I didn’t quite feel threatened for my life, I’d rack a new round (ejecting one) to prove it’s real.

      But once again, I wasn’t there, I don’t know what the circumstances were, and the guy in the story is not me.

      • Respectfully I say that I would never, ever do that. I think it is a bad tactical move. There is nothing in the rule of self-defense that says you have to prove your gun is real. Racking a round puts your gun out of action for a split second, which is all the BGs might need and it is one more opportunity for a mis-feed. Also I’ve seen ejected rounds fly out so far so fast I didn’t see where they went, so your “proof” might go unnoticed.

        If you are justified in brandishing, and you think you have time, then brandish. If the sight of the gun does not immediately resolve the situation or you don’t have time to begin with, shoot for centers of mass and keep shooting until there are no threats. NO warning shots, NO proof the gun is real. That’s BS.

        • I understand why you’d say that.

          I can just say from personal experience having held a weapon pointed at a person in both a combat scenario and in the states that I personally have done/will do everything in my power to prevent having to pull that trigger.

          Once that lead is sent downrange, there is no taking it back.

        • This is to Thebear.
          Anytime you pull you weapon out you better be damned ready to use it. 9 people advancing on you like that means on of them is going down after a verbal warning. If the rest don’t run shoot another and another til the rest gets the message that its a real gun and you are using it. If they are to stupid to realize that after the first shot then the gene pool needs to be thinned.

        • @DBM

          I’m just curious if you’ve ever had a person in your sights, finger on the trigger.

          I have a number of times.

          If you haven’t, and I am not trying to talk down to you here, your opinion is just an opinion.

          Real world scenarios are not always black and white. I’ve abstained from firing even in a combat zone. I don’t think there is anything wrong with preserving life whenever possible. In fact, it’s preferable.

      • 9 opponents in this case. No way I would throw away a round- not by ejecting one, not by a warning shot. If I’d pulled the weapon out it would have been because I was in fear of imminent serious bodily harm to myself or others.

        9 on 1 is all the advantage they’re going to get, not me also throwing away a round.

      • You’ve just removed any remaining doubt about whether you know anything about firearms or defense.

        “I’d rack a new round” = you run the risk of having a failure to feed, presumably while the attacker stands there and waits for you to perform malfunction drills.

    • In general, I’d say the proper response for someone aggressively moving toward you while saying “it’s not real” or “you don’t have the guts” would be a center mass double tap. Though, not being there, like others said, I can’t determine whether that was appropriate in that particular situation. But nine guys, within at least 21 feet of the couple? That would be a credible threat.

  1. The court system has set up a potential catch-22 dependent solely on the whims of local law enforcement and the courts themselves.

    It pains me to see the lack of good sense exhibited by the court/LE on a regular basis. Meanwhile we’re arguing about “common sense gun control” when all we actually need is a little common sense to be used in the “justice” system.

    • True.
      Realistically he was within his right to shoot the person coming at him because there were 9 if them and, armed or not, it is reasonable to assume they meant to do serious bodily harm.
      But if he dropped on, and the other 8 didn’t hang around, and no video evidence to back the shooters statement, an over zealous DA might still charge him with murder. Guilty until proven innocent.

      • I was thinking the same thing. After all, that leaves them with 8 “witnesses” to the shooting to say they weren’t doing anything wrong. Unless they have weapons it would be tough to prove they were actually doing any threatening.

      • 9 or 1, NO DIFFERENCE. It’s a threat either way. If they’re facing me the trigger gets pulled. Are we supposed to wait to see what they do?

        Harris should get off, it’s bullshit he was even arrested. SELF DEFENCE god damn it!

  2. What a bunch of bullshit. The guy could have killed the little punk, but decided to turn the other cheek. What does he get? Charged with a crime. Are the cops even looking for the dbags who threatened him? Highly unlikely. No good deed goes unpunished.

    • It’s not likely the police are looking for the culprits, after all, there are nine of them. That’s far too many for the police to track down when they have good people to convict for protecting themselves. Those thugs mean job security for the PD anyway.

    • Comment following the article indicates some of the “attackers” have given statements to the cops. Don’t know if it’s so or not, but there is a possibility there is more to this story than we know. Have to admit, tho, that was my first thought, easier to arrest the guy standing there with his mate than chase after 9 ‘yoots’.

      • The stories do seem like they’re lacking some key points here. As far as the attackers giving statements that kind of thing happens all the time. A mugger who is foiled by a carrier could easily report to the police a different story and it’s all he said she said from there. I think the warning shot was stupid though. If a group of men say they’re going to rape my wife I’m going to give them lead poisoning.

  3. Imo, let them fight first. After a 911 call . once hit then threaten deadly force. Then shoot to injure.
    Situations dictate. But there are other options.
    Why did he draw without deadly force present? Did he call 911? Was he hit? Words in the street you dont draw imo.

    • I am a fairly “reasonable” person and if I were surrounded by a gang of 9 thugs, even who were “unarmed”, who were threatening me and most importantly my wife, I would have what I’d think a reasonable fear for my life. Draw, threaten to shoot, say not one more step, and if he takes that step I’m thinking he knows something I don’t, and I shoot to stop, not wound. What more can one do?

      I’m not a radical nor violent guy, but gangs even of “unarmed teens” may be the scariest thing out there regarding self defense.

    • Respectfully, no. You don’t let the other guy hit you first, or you might not be conscious enough to react to anything after that. And you don’t get into a scuffle with multiple opponents if you have a gun you, because you won’t have it on you for long, except in the sense that it is being pointed at you. And you don’t “shoot to injure” unless you are Roy Rogers and you’re doing it for a camera.

    • You don’t consider nine against one (two if you count his girlfriend) to be deadly force? It would be really easy for nine guys to beat one guy to death.

      “Shoot to injure” is the dumbest idea ever. You NEVER shoot to injure. You shoot to stop the threat, which means putting rounds in center mass. If you want other options, you carry pepper spray, or a taser, or a tactical pen, something that can be employed without deadly force.

      If nine guys have surrounded me, and are using verbal threats and looking like they are about to attack me physically, my gun is coming out, period. “Words in the street” can easily turn into a serious beating when it’s nine on one.

    • Is it better to wait until someone has their hands on your throat to defend yourself? Raping and beating your girlfriend while they beat you too? The possibilities are endless…

    • “let them fight first. After a 911 call . once hit then threaten deadly force. Then shoot to injure.”

      You should be banned from the internet.

      • Nah, banning him from the interwebs wouldn’t really accomplish anything. He should definitely be banned from carrying a gun until a proctologist cures that nasty case of cranial-rectal inversion, though!

    • “Imo, let them fight first. After a 911 call . once hit then threaten deadly force. Then shoot to injure.”

      No. Following this advice is a ticket to the morgue, the pokey or endless civil action for the victim.

    • “Imo, let them fight first. After a 911 call . once hit then threaten deadly force. Then shoot to injure.”

      Thank you for providing excellent advice on what not to do.

      Next?

  4. The trouble with shooting into the air or into the ground or into anything other than the menacing/threatening individual is that you run the risk of harming somebody other than the menacing/threatening individual.

    Seems an awful lot of people who carry for their protection are unwilling to actually use said protection.

    • “Seems an awful lot of people who carry for their protection are unwilling to actually use said protection.”

      This++.

  5. I see this as a reasonable situation for a warning shot, although shooting the ground is usually safer than into the air.

    • Never, ever fire a warning shot into the air. I’ve seen a dead seven year old that was killed by a round falling out of the sky. It was not something that was easy to see, and even thoufh the odds of it happening are minuscule, it’s still a chance.

    • I don’t think it is reasonable to throw away a round via warning shot when faced by 9 men. Kid could just as easily decided the man was firing a warning shot because he wasn’t willing to shoot someone…

  6. Shoot ’em! Brandishing & doing a shotgun Joe. If you carry a gun be prepared to use it. Nine against 2? Slam dunk a punk…

  7. If a gang of men approach you and announce their intention to rape you, severely beat you, or kill you, you are legally justified to use force — including deadly force if necessary — to defend yourself.

    It gets murky if the gang of men slowly approach you and do not state any intentions. In that situation, I would not allow a gang of men to slowly approach me … I would move away and tell them to back off if they followed.

    I have to hope that the police arrested the victim because he fired his handgun into the air without any idea where that bullet would come down or what damage it would cause. In other words his arrest had nothing to do with using his firearm in self-defense.

  8. Hey, they have to check out the story. Of course, they don’t necessarily have to arrest him to do that. From the story and comments, looks like it was a judgment call on the cops’ part, and I don’t know enough facts to make a judgment on their judgment. But if he had indeed plugged someone they pretty much would have to, I would think, under the circumstances as outlined here.

  9. Shooting the advancing bad guy, with another bad guy as a backstop.
    Unless you want to get beaten to death.

    • Yeah this, “warning shots” are stupid on so many levels (yes even the ones we call “misses”). I will step back a little and say dont just immediately plug the guy, if he keeps his distance and just is taunting me I will keep my gun pointed at his sternum until he decides to get too close. Our poor sunday school teacher was completely in his right to send these yutes to hell though, guy was outnumbered by people who were younger and probably more fit than he was and they clearly weren’t looking to enroll in the after school program at his church. What if they had decided to bum rush him when he fired the warning shot? he now has 1 less round to deal with multiple attackers and because he is still in a “warning shot” mindset he is one step behind where he would have been if he had kept his sights on the closest bad guy and shot him had he moved too close. I think or at least hope (maybe this is too much faith in the system) that he will get off, but its going to cost him a whole lot more money and time than if he had just shot one or both of them. I personally stick to the principle that if I feel threatened enough to draw, then the threat is going to get shot. If you have time for a warning shot, then you are not in danger.

  10. The ttag summary doesn’t include the part about the thugs threatening to rape his girlfriend in front of him. That’s pretty important – it pretty clearly establishes Intent. 9 vs 2 on the street is definitely the means and opportunity.

  11. If you are scared enough that you draw your weapon you shoot the threat or you do what this guy did but don’t tell the cop it was a warning shot. Say you shot the guy and he ran away. If/when no one shows up dead or wounded at a hospital. You say, “I guess I missed. I was really scared.” Cops miss ALL THE TIME. Warning shots are a bad idea. Telling the police that you fired a warning shot is an even worse idea. Trying to shoot to wound vs shoot to stop a threat is pure Hollywood.

  12. 9 against 3 disparity of force
    continued advancement after warning = intent.
    If there was no escape route available I think the shot was the right thing to do.
    Maybe point down though. No one died.
    Unfortunately law enforcement has turned to defending the criminal and their own jobs instead of doing what is right.

  13. While I won’t judge what Mr. Harris did or did not do as he has to live with his own conscience. he will have to live with those consequences.
    Whether you shoot or don’t shoot you have to live with the consequences.
    What matters most is what the law says.
    If WV is like most states, he would have been justified to use deadly force the second they had surrounded him and even just said they were going to take his gun.
    I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
    But sometimes recognizing when there is the threat of deadly force is a subtle thing and could happen very quickly.
    Warning shot or no warning shot sometimes is dictated by circumstances but mostly by the law.
    If he had allowed those attacker to get too close they could have gotten the gun from him and shot him and his wife.
    Rape is considered Great Bodily harm and as soon as one of them just threatened to rape his wife, he was justified in killing one of or all of them.
    It’s ironic that if he had just shot one of them that would have made his story seem more validated in that there was an actual threat.
    The lesson in all of this is that if don’t have the judgement to know the response to how to react when presented with a deadly threat, and are not willing to use deadly force to stop that deadly threat then you definitely should not be carrying a firearm.

    • “I don’t know. I wasn’t there.”

      Problem is, neither were the cops. And the shooter and his companion were uninjured, and the thugs were unarmed. So it will come down to his word, her word, against the nine who might say they never threatened him, never surrounded him, were just walking along and…

      “This dude pulled his gun, shouted racial epithets and shot as us! Really! We didn’t do nothin’, officer!”

      And all the armchair quarterbacks above who say they would have ventilated the guy would be sitting in jail too, except that would be facing murder charges, with precious little evidence corroborating their “affirmative defense” of self-defense.

  14. You use deadly force just prior to saying “I want to speak with my attorney” and shortly after saying “DROP THE WEAPON!”

  15. Intent to do harm, coupled with the apparent ability to carry out the threat. If they have it, that’s my cue.

    I think warning shots are generally a bad idea, but I wasnt there, so I can’t second guess this guy. I think this shots into the air are a horrible idea, regardless. Shoot the dirt if you’re gonna do it, I think.

  16. 9 against 2?

    Shoot ’em.

    Disparity of force would be clear to any jury who isn’t using their butts to polish their thumbs.

    Aim at the Center-of-Mass, start shooting.

    This would be a good lesson: Practice shooting multiple targets. Set up 4-5 or more targets around you, like the set up those thugs were in around that guy, then practice putting two shots into each center-of-mass of as many of those targets as you can.

    I’m 100% against warning shots. What if that warning shot comes down on some playground, or on some schoolyard and now there’s a little kid with his brains blown owut because a random bullet made a 1-in-a-million hit?

    • Remember the Boardinghouse Rules, though; everybody gets Firsts, before anyone gets Seconds.

      Everybody who is still a threat, anyway.

      I faintly remember something called the Dozier Drill?
      Might be a good thing to practice.

  17. Once you’ve cleared leather (kydex), there are only two choices:

    -Reholster, unfired.

    -Fire at the intended target.

    Any other action that you voluntarily undertake is stupid and asking for trouble.

    There is no such thing as a reasonable “warning shot”. The muzzle pointing at them is all the warning a threat needs.

    • I’ll add this- I’m genuinely surprised, and dismayed, at the number of TTAG readers who think that firing a gun at anything but a lethal threat is ever acceptable.

      It’s about as smart as the proverbial leg shot or carrying a first round of “non-lethal” ammo.

      • Agree, Al.

        But I wasn’t there. The one closest advancing towards me would likely get a round center-of-mass. Telling me you intend to violate my companion would factor in my decision to shoot.

        But I wasn’t there.

    • In most cases I agree, but what if they actually believe it isn’t a real gun? Do you really want to deal with the aftermath of a DGU when you are confident a warning shot would get the message across? (of course a warning shot into dirt would be smarter than the air)

      • “but what if they actually believe it isn’t a real gun?”

        9 guys; threatening to rape your gf/wife; refusing to stop when ordered to do so.

        That’s not the time to say “no really, I can prove it’s a real gun”.

        A. It forces you to take the muzzle off of the threat.

        B. Dirt*, air, big oak tree- doesn’t matter. You’ve now fired a deadly projectile which you cannot control and which could injure/kill someone (even yourself).

        C. A warning shot is evidence that you were NOT facing a lethal threat. Therefore, your use of lethal force (even against a clump of dirt) was unwarranted.

        *”Dirt” isn’t always present. And even if it is, there’s no telling what the bullet will do after striking it. It could fragment, ricochet, etc.

      • I cannot believe I’m reading justifications for warning shots on TTAG! This is crazy! It’s LETHAL FORCE for SELF-DEFENSE. You only get to use it if you or your loved one is threatened with grave bodily harm. There is some small gray area, but in general there is no provision for you threatening to use lethal force if you think kinda, sorta, maybe think you are being threatened. You have justification or you don’t and if you do, you use it. Otherwise, you’ve got no business having a gun for self-defense. You are a danger to yourself, your loved ones and the community. And I hope you like your new cell-mate.

      • “when you are confident a warning shot would get the message across?”

        Why would you be confident a warning shot would do the trick, when showing the firearm already didn’t have that impact?

        They’ve been warned: They didn’t believe it was a real gun.

        They could have just as easily went for the: Ok, so it’s a real gun, doesn’t mean you have the guts to actually shoot & kill a person.

        He’s lucky they scattered. They could have just as easily charged.

        • Read the original article. The girlfriend says the cruisers were coming down the road at the time of the shot and the young men ran. They ran from the police, not the idiot with the gun.

  18. Warning shot in the air = “To whom it may concern, I am a bullet.”
    warning shot in the ground = I hope its not concrete.

    Ha @Tom loved the backstop idea

    • I’ve known one guy who fired a warning shot and I thought it was reasonable. As in this case, the bad guys didn’t believe it was a real gun. Fortunately for him, they were still a bit over ten yards away, and there was dirt in between. He brought the muzzle up and put a round in the ground about halfway from him to them, and kept bringing the muzzle up. They realized it was real, clearly enough that there were two knives dropped when they ran. The mere presence of those two knives on the dirt was enough for the cops to congratulate him and his sister for being safe and send them on their way.

      But yeah, if they’re close enough to touch you, a warning shot is stupid: warnings are only for when the bad guy can’t yet hurt you. If they’re close enough to do harm, then the “warning” round goes into the center of mass of the closest one. If the rest don’t figure it out, “warn” them again.

  19. I commend the Sunday school teacher for using a gun to defend himself and simultaneously doing so without loss of life as it was unnecessary. I further commend him for doing what was right despite that the law did not stand behind him, that the police officer did not respect his actions and performed as he was ordered, and that the aggressors hopefully learn from their mistakes and live a meaningful life.

    If I was that responding officer I would have let them go. Typical cops – arrest the victim.

    He was there, we were not. He felt a warning shot was enough and he was right.

  20. Punk was gloating him to fire to prove was a real gun – don’t take the bait!
    Frankly not sure he should even pull the gun without trying to warn punks to stay back.
    Not inconceivable that punk could file assault charges on him now.
    Very good video on what justifies use deadly force!

  21. How about instead of saying you fired a warning shot, say that “you missed” and they scattered like cockroaches?
    Oops?

  22. i think a jury trial will be appropriate in this case. Sure, it will be expensive, but better to be broke or in debt than dead.

  23. Some states have specifically made sure it is legal to fire a warning shot as long as it is reasonable. Know your local laws.

    Me? If I have 9 potential attackers I’m not going to waste a round on the sky.

    • Some states do allow it, but IMHO it is never a good idea. Even if it’s legal, it can get you into legal trouble. If the warning shot doesn’t work and you have to shoot for score, the prosecutor can use the warning as evidence you didn’t really feel threatened enough to use lethal force and that your warning shot started the fight. Then your claim of self defense is gone.

      In a recent Self-Defense Law class I took at the NRA Range, the lawyers who taught it said, “No warning shots, period. Really bad idea no matter where you are.”

  24. The objections to warning shots strike me as odd, a result of years of propaganda. A warning shot was long the standard way to say to a gang, “yep, the gun actually works and I’ll use it if you force me to.” Many idiots simply don’t respond to less.

    Apparently there aren’t many “tough neighborhood” folks in the audience: Gangs out for a mugging or revenge have always known, like wolves, to circle their prey, offering nothing but ghoulish smiles and jive until they are close enough to assure the handgun will be useless. In our contemporary context they know that an armed individual will be very reluctant, and rightly so, to shoot one of the gang. The gang knows better, usually, than to offer a straight-up verbal death or maiming threat that will satisfy the “good shoot” requirements. They’ll just move closer and closer until they can grab the potential shooter’s arm. After that it’s over.

    I don’t live in an area in which such groups are tolerated. The PD will check out much lesser threats. But I sympathize with those like the man in the article, who are approached by gangs of young men presenting an ambiguous threat just until they move on their victim.

    I can only rationalize the “no warning shot” law in this way, that it forces people who carry, like the man featured in the post, to exercise much greater avoidance behavior, and to call 911 sooner. But since avoidance options are limited on trafficked city streets, and since the PD won’t get there for ten minutes, if ever, I find the rationalization unreasonable. It only makes sense to those living in much safer/richer urban neighborhoods.

    • Warning shots are generally not a good idea, and those who fire them should not get the same protections from liability that those who shoot to stop..

      HOWEVER, if the situation was one where shooting the attacker would be justified, why would you punish an action taken to dissuade the attacker *without* putting bloody holes in anyone, if in fact nobody was put in greater risk by the act.

      What anti-warning shot laws do is de-incentivize anything except rapid, lethal force in response to an attack. What they’re really saying is ‘We want more young minority kids in the morgue and hospital than on the streets.” Stick that in your pipe, NAACP.

    • “The objections to warning shots strike me as odd, a result of years of propaganda. A warning shot was long the standard way to say to a gang, “yep, the gun actually works and I’ll use it if you force me to.” ”

      My permit to carry class, one thing they kept reiterating: Think of every bullet as if it has a lawyer attached to it.

      This one certainly did. Sure it is propaganda – Meant to try and keep you out of jail.

      Warning shots make a certain sense in rural environments – This was an urban setting; and the warning shot in an urban setting puts bystanders at risk, which is exactly what he’s charged with: ““Wanton endangerment is placed on anyone who fires a gun and puts others at risk.”

      • Chris, when I referred to propaganda, I meant that media and anti-firearms advocacy against the use of a warning shot, advocacy which lead to the current law. Continued support for the criminalization of a warning shot is basically an attempt to lessen the utility of handguns in defense against gangs.

        The notion that you will beset by a gang of eight or nine teen thugs in…Vermont…is laughable. In one-on-one or two-on-one threatening street behavior, the potential victim has both more avenues of escape and (usually) a clearer ability to assess the threat. I know Vermont well, and went to college in a rough part of Philadelphia, and speak from experience of these environments and the types of their criminal behaviors.

        We teach people not to fire a warning shot because….it is against the law. It would often be wise from a practical (and life-sparing) point of view, but would often result in the CCW person’s conviction. There are many, many situations in which a warning shot would not be wise. We used to trust the defender to know the difference. These days (in most jurisdictions) we do not.

        I would prefer it if a warning shot was legal, but harm resulting to anyone not the attacker was a criminal offense: Let the victimized use their judgment, but make them very consequentially liable for bad judgment. Just my view.

        • So you think a warning shot is a good idea when confronted by a large group? Why not shoot the nearest target? Won’t that be a better warning to the rest than shooting in the air?

        • Michael: A better warning, maybe. but the consequences of the safely reasoned warning shot are nothing like the consequences of taking a life, even that of a “disadvantaged yoot”. The real consequences of a self defense shooting are months of hassle, court costs, and civil action from the “victim’s” family. It’s something that should be avoided if at all possible.

          Compare that to a police report and a ‘be on your way’ for an effective warning shot? Yeah.

          All that said, I believe a warning shot is not a good response to many threats, but it shouldn’t be removed from the toolbox completely.

        • First, let me say that a warning shot, even in jurisdictions where it is legal, should never be “in the air,” but in the the softest surface reasonably close to your feet.

          Second, let me say that “a group of aggressive young men” takes in a large number of very different cases. I don’t have one answer for all of them, and I bet that in real life you don’t either. I actually did experience a group attack, and not pulling the trigger was one of the more difficult things I’ve done: I recognized that the primary aggressor in the group was a local kid who apparently had ingested something that he shouldn’t have. He was clearly gone, over-the-top, crazed. I waited until the very last instant, hoping one of the group would risk his wrath and stop the guy before he took another step. They did. The kid got rehab. Happy ending.

          I don’t think there is a canned right answer. For reasons I understand, the law discourages warning shots. I do, however, know for a fact that sometimes in this drug-addled booze-soaked world a teenager in a group will present immediate intent and apparent ability to do someone grievous bodily injury….and that a loud bang may snap him out of his delusional feeling of invulnerability. This should be a very rare event.

          I will point out something which will surprise many readers: There was a time when, in the law of many U.S. jurisdictions, a shooting without a warning shot first was considered exceptionally suspicious to jurors, perhaps indicating the shooting was an assassination. We’ve turned a 180 on that way of thinking as our towns and cities have become more populous. I accept that change.

          As for a warning shot that is not into nearby ground or macadam, I would question whether it was really a warning shot. And for those who say that a warning shot into macadam at a steep angle is likely to ricochet, I can only say I do not believe it. Against rock, steel, concrete, and such, sure. I’m open to evidence, citations to testing.

        • Of course that’s what you meant. I was trying to get you to see it from a different angle.

          Consider this:

          He fired a shot into the air, in the middle of a City.

          How many of the 4 rules were broken?

          1) Firearms are always loaded – OK, he get’s a pass here.

          2) Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not prepared to destroy.
          So, he was prepared to destroy the sky was he? Seems rather reckless, he might need that later.

          3)Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
          Fail. Target was not the sky. Target was the attackers.

          4) Know your Target and what’s beyond.
          Fail. Target was not the sky – Earth was beyond it, and houses and schools, and kids.

          He broke 3 of the 4 rules. Reckless gun handling yes?

          Now I will concede under certain circumstances, a warning shot is preferable – and I personally, NEVER want to be in a position to kill another person. BUT – He could have done it accidentally. IF I’m going to put a hole in somebody – It should be because I MEANT to. Not because I was negligent. He has NO idea where that bullet came down. He endangered others, trying to save himself – Noble he was able to extract himself from a potentially lethal encounter – but he used that lethal force in a negligent manner.

          Suppose his bullet came down and hit a child killing them. Negligent homicide would seem to be appropriate yes? He certainly should be responsible for any property damage that resulted. Which may or may not be known at this time. We could have to wait for the next rainstorm before the house 4 blocks away realizes it now needs a roof patched.

        • “the consequences of the safely reasoned warning shot”
          Sian, you mean getting killed or killing a bystander where your bullet returns to earth or getting arrested? Those consequences?
          You people are so damn stupid, I bet if you pulled a knife on an attacker and he said “that’s not a real knife” you would cut yourself just to prove it.

        • Chris, I basically agree with you. I am simply against the “absolutely never” notion, for reasons I’ve stated. However, I also accept that if it were clearly legal, idiots would abuse the thing, which would set back the CCW movement a few decades. Warning shots are almost always a very bad idea.

          I would never raise what I perceive to be important rare exceptions…except on a site like this one. It is here that people reflect on firearm, self-defense, and safety issues from many points of view. In the end we all go out and live by the letter, not just the spirit, of our jurisdiction’s laws. To some extent the law of self-defense has to be kept a bit “bright line,” because people, especially when stressed out, can’t manage fancy exceptions. Agreed. And shooting the sky? Where did the guy think he was? Albuquerque at New Years?

        • Michael, are you serious? So is your position that a warning shot is NEVER the right move? Even if you have soft ground 2 feet in front of you that can absorb the shot safely?

          A warning shot is ALMOST ALWAYS not the right move. but on the rare occasion it can be done safely and is likely to have the desired effect, then yes it is. Just don’t shoot in the air like a dumbass.

          In the stated example, if it were me, my ‘warning shot’ would me aimed at the closest attacker’s face as a warning to the remaining 8 about their acute failure of the victim selection process, but I’ve got 17+16 rounds on-tap. Don’t know if I’d do the same with a 7-shot pocket pistol.

        • Yes, I am very serious. Every time I pull the trigger it will be to hit the target. If you want to warn someone and be at the ready, aim your gun. The next move they make is on them. They retreat, yield, or attack. Two of those three are a no shoot situation.

  25. He had every right to make a sucking chest wound the evidence for the reality of his gun but chose mercy instead. Wouldn’t have done it myself but hey.

    I’ve always been of the mind that you don’t pull your gun unless your going to shoot, center mass, not in the air. If you have time to talk and convince the threat of the reality of the gun than you likely weren’t really in fear for your life and the gun never should have been produced.

    That being said I understand not wanting to take a life unless it is absolutely necessary and would avoid it myself as long as I possibly could without putting my life at risk. I think the cops and the justice system need to use a little discretion and reason when throwing charges at individuals in situations liike this. Would the cops have preferred a dead body and the investigation that comes along with that.

  26. Here’s a sampling of people who know what they’re talking about who say “No. Don’t fire warning shots.”

    Pincus
    http://www.personaldefensenetwork.com/video/003353_warning-shots/

    Ayoob
    http://www.tactical-life.com/combat-handguns/warning-shot-misconceptions/

    Yeager (I know)Warning Shots are Stupid – Part 1: http://youtu.be/q865k3m5Yio

    And the ever quotable Clint Smith-
    “If you want to scare him, get a rubber fright mask. If you want to Stop ’em, shoot em.”

    • Not one of the links deals with the reality of a little mob or gang moving towards the intended victim, not particularly impressed by the presented firearm, yet keeping their intent ambiguous as to whether they intend serious bodily injury or rather merely intend to rattle him.

      Warning shots aren’t always stupid. They are almost always stupid. And, in most jurisdictions, always illegal.

      I have no dog in the fight (to quote Vick), as I can avoid the neighborhoods in which aggressive little mobs usually roam. My sympathy to those who cannot avoid them. And to the absolutists quoting their favorite gun guru…gun gurus generally do not teach that the law is wrong, but teach how to use your gun within the law’s rules.

      • Warning shots are always stupid and so is your comment.

        “… a little mob or gang moving towards the intended victim, not particularly impressed by the presented firearm, yet keeping their intent ambiguous as to whether they intend serious bodily injury or rather merely intend to rattle him.”

        You have a gun pointed at the motherphukers head and he is coming after you just to “rattle” you? So if that doesn’t impress him, you think firing into the air or into the ground will impress him. What if all you did was prove to the whole group that you are not willing to shoot them? Ever think of that?

        • So if that doesn’t impress him, you think firing into the air or into the ground will impress him. What if all you did was prove to the whole group that you are not willing to shoot them? Ever think of that?

          Clearly, Michael, I do think (heck, I do know) that there are cases in which a warning shot will impress a fool who can believe his ears, if not his eyes, or motivate his little gang to pull him back. Do I think that is the default option? No. I’ve explained my experience in more detail in another comment.

          Incidentally, in Pennsylvania and many other states, if you point your pistol at “the motherphuker’s head” without needing to pull the trigger (and you are not a sworn LEO), you’ve committed aggravated assault. In my township and county you will be charged with that crime.

          I am not in doubt that a shooting may have been justified in the case in point. I am simply in favor of not criminalizing a person who takes the risk of a less-final action, subject to caveats that, as it happens, this church-goer did not follow. If I were king, I’d write a more nuanced law on the matter. In the meantime, the law as it is suffices. Be safe.

  27. I just want to point out to those that are upset about folks here being ok with warning shots that nobody wants to kill someone, and least no one rational. The comments approving of warning shots in lieu of lethal shots are likely a manifestation of that abhorrence of lifetaking, and at least some if not many of those currently espousing the warning shot would likely reconsider when they find themselves at the point of the spear.

    • Well yeah, unless they’ve been told that firing off into the sky or the ground and endangering the general public is better than at the bad guy.

      I agree with not wanting to kill someone. I really hope I never have to. Not ever.

      But that won’t be my decision, it’ll be their’s.
      And unless that’s what they’ve clearly chosen, I won’t be pressing the trigger.

    • In this thread, people keep citing the danger of warning shots. I realize that in many (but not all) US jurisdictions warning shots are illegal. That doesn’t mean those laws, the hard-and-fast rules, are sensible rather than political.

      I ask, but no one posts, the research backing the belief that warning shots are not in some circumstances a sensible act…though maybe not permissible in your jurisdiction. I don’t think there is much research to back that up. There is research on the other side. I posted the abstract further down the thread, but here is the citation to one research-based study:

      https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=173165

  28. Warning shots are just stupid. They can get you killed, get an innocent bystander killed, or get you arrested. Taking the time to fire a warning shot will be used against the shooter as some evidence that the danger was not imminent, and therefore the shot was improvident (to say the least).

    Nevertheless, if Harris’ version of the story is true, he doesn’t belong in jail. He belongs in a classroom where he can be taught what he should have done.

    • And what should he have done?

      I find the absolutism puzzling. I’ll give you an example that occurred in my peaceful township of 27,000 souls within the last year. As background, the township does not experience a murder in nine out of ten years. In the tenth year it’s a spouse (a lesbian couple last year, with the shooting over the next county line..it isn’t always the men…) or business partner…. Recently we had a flurry of burglaries of occupied dwellings, a crime we almost never had in previous decades. Very nice homes in an expensive neighborhood. One of these was of a home several houses away from Kobe’s Philadelphia-area home, on the same road. The residents, a married couple with a home office, both fired at the burglars, who fled. “We missed!” The PD chased the perps into Philadelphia, but abandoned the chase for safety reasons.

      The couple were skilled shooters. They both….missed.

      The same week another pair of burglars tried a daytime burglary in the same neighborhood, a block away: Several adults came out of their homes with concealed firearms, and helped channel the fleeing burglars toward the LEO’s, calling in their sightings. It worked. The pair were arrested.

      The rash of burglaries suddenly ended. Word gets out. Our police are sensible and skilled, and seem to have good judgment in evaluating the behavior of residents. We have not had any residents going mad with guns. It seems to me, though, that occasionally a missed shot really does say “give up, go away, victimize some other neighborhood.” I could be wrong.

      I find the “warning shot” issue reminds me of the old legal saying, that “hard cases make bad law.” And I should say that I’m quite content with the laws of Pennsylvania as enforced.

      • I am not risking my life or my loved ones life on a fucking anecdote! You have to decide now, right now! Can you shoot a human being who is a real threat? You are betting your life you can scare the threat off. That is the most stupid irresponsible advice I have ever heard from anyone claiming to be a gun owner.

        DO NOT SHOOT YOUR GUN IN A DGU WITH THE INTENT TO WARN OR WOUND! PERIOD!

  29. THIS is what Florida’s new “Warning Shot” law protects against. He was forced into proving that his threat was legitimate, and if he had not, he would have been attacked.

    He would have been justified shooting one of these yoots. He chose instead to demonstrate his ability to ruin their evening, and resolved the situation with no one hurt.

    Only one totally lacking in common sense would call this a bad thing. Only one with an agenda would call this a criminal offence.

  30. this poor guy probably had no good options.

    Say he shoots one of the gang dead. Depending on other circumstances, he could find himself in a situation where there are 8 remaining witnesses who say they were all just good guys minding their own business and the sunday school teacher gunned one of them down our of paranoia or something.

    I don’t envy his predicament.

    • Not to mention that he could have found himself being rushed. One gun against 9 guys rushing you isn’t good odds. Of course that isn’ likely but it is possible depending on who the attackers are.

  31. I can imagine a very narrow (and probably unlikely) set of circumstances where a warning shot may not be a horrible idea. I think saying that a warning shot is never ever ever not the stupidest most worthless idea possible is a bit hypoerbolic.

    Though if i ever found myself in those circumstances AND i did decide to use a warning shot, i would never admit to as much.

    “I fired and missed and the suspect took off, officer”

    • i should have added: those narrow circumstances i mentioned NEVER encompass firing a warning shot into the air.

      that is something i can say “never ever ever” do.

      • Why not toss a flash bang? That is the point of the warning shot right? To make noise? Why not carry two guns. One loaded with blanks for the warning shot. Please explain what the warning shot is supposed to do that pointing your gun at the threat doesn’t. The difference is, you want the noise. Why? All you idiots want to be able to have suppressors on all your guns without going through the ATF and now you want to be able to use a warning shot without penalty. “Hold on Mr. bad guy. I have to unscrew my silencer to fire a warning shot. Give me a few seconds.”

  32. Shoot, beginning with the one who presents the most imminent threat, until they are no longer a threat. Move to the next most imminent threat remaining and assess their determination to continue being a threat, etc., etc.

    Likely, most or all of your attackers will already have criminal records, as this is probably not their first rodeo. Hopefully, your own clean record and that of your companion, along with evidence of your moral character will be sufficient to outweigh the false statements of the remainder of your attackers, who likely fled to escape capture (consciousness of guilt), while you contacted the police to report your being victimized by the group.

  33. Unless the guy turns tail to run IMMEDIATELY as you’re drawing your weapon, you fire every time. It only takes the guy a split second to pull his own piece once he sees yours. Or he’s nuts and decides he wants your gun at the risk of getting shot. So don’t give em a chance and just shoot.

    You are drawing because you are convinced your life is in danger, so you fire. Otherwise keep it holstered.

  34. Step 1) Always fire 3 warning shots. Two in the chest and one in the head. Like they do in Mozambique.

    Step 2) If the other 8 punks don’t heed the warning, repeat step one.

  35. I just went and read the actual news article. I see now where they threatened to rape his wife.
    I changed my mind. Screw it, shoot em. In the nuts, preferably.

    • That makes two of us that read it. Did you catch the part where the girl said that the police were coming down the street when the guys ran? I don’t think the warning shot did anything that a rape whistle wouldn’t have.

  36. Cops don’t fire warning shots, neither do criminals intent on your demise. Firing one into the air is a bad idea. If you pull a gun to defend yourself and they keep coming, well, they’ve made your decision for you.

  37. Shoot.

    Shoot the closest threat to you, and make sure you stop him. The other mooks will either 1.) get the idea and GTFO or 2.) end up on the ground with extra holes they don’t need.

    • This ^^^

      Also, with a group, you should not make yourself a stationary target. You should start moving immediately, either away from the BGs or flanking them depending on the situation. They may not rush you, but for your safety, you should assume they will.

  38. The law in Texas says if anyone threatens me or mine with lethal force, or I am in fear for my life from possible lethal force (in other words, they don’t have voice an actual threat), then I can use lethal force to defend myself. And hands/fists are lethal force, so they don’t have to be presenting weapons to threaten me.

    So, in this situation, say to the wife, dial 911 now, ready myself to draw and tell them to stop or back off. If they do not, draw and shoot. My only problem here is that I only have 8 rounds, so either I only serve 1 round per target and hope that last one takes off, or make sure of a few of them. Guess I need to start carrying that extra mag. I do at least practice fast reloads.

    And make sure you say to the first officer on scene, “I was in fear of my life”.

  39. Good article, thanks, and useful as it brings up the warning shot question, which is apparently fuzzy enough in the law, that FL legislators thought it necessary to define it.

    I understand the thinking, and agree with the use of a warning, but for me in a situation like this its going to be a loud “get back, I’m armed and I will shoot”, while backing, scanning moving toward cover, hand on holster. Preferably after calling 911 and putting the cell in your shirt pocket to get your hands free, giving location, description of suspects, and the situation, including that you feel threatened for great bodily harm or loss of life, and leaving it on speakerphone. That recording will be your proof in court of your perception and actions, and get help coming ASAP, and the sound of the dispatcher might add to the suspects belief you are serious and help is on the way.

    What to say after has been covered elsewhere, but the MOST IMPORTANT AND RELEVANT POINT of the article and the video is that the legal aspects are a critical part of the entire continuum. that I personally feel YOU HAVE TO PRACTICE, as a scenario of required steps, just like you practice the 3S’s, the Four Rules, drawing your weapon, Shoot-NoShoot drills, BRASS, dry-firing, malf drills, mag changes, moving while shooting, getting to cover, etc, that fits your possible risk environment.

    One quibble- the article talks about WV, but the vid is about WI. I stopped listening to the vid halfway thru because I got topped out with buzz words. Target acquisition, target isolation, etc and it wasnt clear if that was elements of the law, or the instructors own interpretations or complications. I appreciate the need to sell a brand or market to a specific capability, but most of us citizens need help with KISS, and I’d be grateful if industry experts could standardize, including on the legal definitions in laymans language. Other-wise we have to do that ourselves, translating legalese into something you can quantify in about a second- for me its between low ready and on target: “Can he kill me, is he close enough, is he going for it? On Target, Backdrop Clear, On Trigger, SHOOT!” (and I am always open to tips on how to improve, so fire away)

    The law for use of deadly force is complicated enough, that most states have significant differences in how you can apply it, to the point where you can spend your treasure and freedom after the fact, if you apply it wrong, in spite of best intentions.

    Not to push anyone source over another but Ayoob was first on this years ago, and while some of the laws have changed and his early stuff is out of date, his teaching style and explanations were helfpul to me, becuase he boiled it down, without making it all about him.

    The book “Law of Self Defense” by Andrew Branca is a pretty good resource, IMHO, and at one point he had a blog with details on each state, but not sure how updated those are, now. I see he has recently joined Legal Insurrection, which is a great resource too. http://legalinsurrection.com/2013/08/andrew-branca-to-continue-blogging-at-legal-insurrection/

    Maybe he would write an article with update, and something along the lines of the above, from his perspective, for TTAG?

    I’m sure NRA has some really good stuff on this too, as would USCCA, and I need to go back and review myself, now that I think of it, while waiting for CA 9th to decide on Peruta.

    Personally, I’ve chosen to read a bit deeper, in addition, as CA law is even more convoluted,
    and while IANAL I would recommend to CCW permit or want-to-be holders; to look into who is the local legal expert(s) in their state, so you have a good resource on changes in interpretations from recent case law, and perhaps their business card in your wallet if you need to make that one phone call to someone who knows their stuff.

    For example, Michel and Associates has a book out on CA laws. (same firm that is west coast coordinator for Peruta v Gore)
    http://michellawyers.com/reference-materials/firearm-law-references/

    Your state gun-rights group forums will usually have someone advertising there, or knowledgeable users who can say who does good work.

  40. a lesson learned….NEVER fire a warning shot….as you will never see or hear of a LEO firing a warning shot…NEVER

    • First off, you are wrong. Not all major PD’s have abandoned warning shots as a tactic. Why? Warning shots actually work. Here’s the NCJRS citation: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=173165

      I’ll take the liberty of pasting the research article abstract:

      “Many police departments have had a policy against warning shots for years. Such a policy is due to the concern that a warning shot may be misplaced and result in unintended injury or death to a suspect or bystander. On the other hand, there is evidence that a safely placed warning shot can shock a suspect into compliant behavior that precludes shooting the suspect. Thus, warning shots may prevent injury or death rather than cause it. In reviewing dozens of cases in which officers or civilians fired a warning shot, the authors found the shots were effective in the vast majority of cases, and no further shots were fired. Case after case showed that criminals ceased to flee and surrendered, even though they had committed serious crimes. In the cases where warning shots were fired, the arrests remained valid; and the courts were not concerned about the use of warning shots. Research shows that warning shots have resulted in little legal litigation. If an officer’s option is to fire a safely placed warning shot or shoot to kill or incapacitate a suspect, the option of the warning shot is less likely to lead to a civil action against the department. Perhaps it is time to look at the possible use of warning shots in certain cases in which it would be an alternative to injury or death.”

  41. This would be a pretty scary situation. If they are close enough to consider them threatening, then if they didn’t run when you opened fire you’d be screwed. Particularly if none of them ran. I seriously doubt you could get off more than 2-3 accurate shots before they reached you.

    I can certainly see some of the logic behind a warning shot in this scenario, where demonstrating that you do have real lethal capability might deter an attack, but actually firing at them might start the a fight that you really do not want to be in. Even so I have trouble understanding why they would be genuinely skeptical (IT’S A TRAP!). I’m firmly in the “no warning shots” camp myself, but I wasn’t the one there trying to make fast and important decisions.

    This would probably be one of those situations where I’d have the wife call 911 while standing-off with them. This forces them to make a decision since they are now time-limited. Depending on how long they wait, you can even warn them loudly enough for it to get recorded and she can start describing them to the operators.
    Even better, make sure your wife is armed so she can back you up.

    • A tactical retreat would be the best thing. A fighting retreat the second best. Standing your ground would be suicide in the face of a determined assault.

      Fortunately there is one factor in your favor when facing a street gang – they aren’t likely to launch a determined assault.

      There is no honor among criminals. Criminals operate through intimidation and surprise, whether it’s drive by shootings of rivals or intimidation and robbery of their victims.

      Upgrading the stakes from a pair of marks to be robbed and/or murdered/raped to a pair of armed persons who can and will eliminate threats makes a prolonged conflict unlikely. Why go after a difficult and dangerous target when patience and better choice of victim means a much safer encounter.

      So +100 on the suggestion to make sure your wife carries.

  42. If 9 men have threatened death or grave bodily harm(rape in this case) you are justified in shooting. You probably could hit 2 or 3 before they all scattered. And your story of a gang of men threatening you would be believed over theirs especially if any of them had priors. You are justified in shooting at least one of them even if outnumbered just 2 to 1 and even if they have no weapons. Disparity of force is explained by Massad Ayoob in detail in a number of his books and online.

    • +1 on Massad Ayoob! I’ve read and re-read plenty of his books and articles. Some of his stuff should be required reading if you plan on carrying concealed.

  43. So the thug dared him to shoot, questioned the authenticity of the gun and the victim’s willingness to defend himself. Because the victim pulled a gun out expecting it to make his wouldbe assailants disappear.

    Backs up the “if you clear leather start shooting” modus operandi.

  44. This would also be the only situation in which socialist theory applies:

    Everyone gets firsts before anyone gets seconds.

  45. I call BS on the automatic responses and preachings that warning shots are always bad, stupid, or dangerous (though they are often illegal for non-LEO’s). They aren’t even illegal in every jurisdiction. Cops and politicians and gurus mouth off about the enormous dangers, but nobody does the research. I’ve only been able to find one study in the NCJRS research database, and it reports that after reviewing records of warning shots by police and civilians, the shots do not often lead to harming innocents, and do often stop the attack, obviating the need to take the perps life:

    Read it for yourself. And if somebody has research (not just “some Police Chief says” or “everybody knows that…”…. well, I’ll read it. But see https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=173165

  46. Seems to me that he did exactly the right thing in this case. He did not harm anyone and they stopped threatening him, right. So, NRA and all law abiding, gun rights folks need to support him and really get on the case of the cops who arrested him and the judge who might be sentencing him. We all need to make a positive example of cases like this to show the public that this guy was in the right and did not resort to harming or killing anyone when he had the chance and maybe the right to do so.

  47. This is a no win situation for the unfortunate couple If one or more of the group was shot in the confrontation The remainder of the group would have went to the police and said that they were shot for no reason and that the shooter was the aggressor. Because that is what punks do. They have to be in a group to be brave to begin with.
    The shooter is in trouble for a warning shot. Imagine if he shot one or more.

  48. Chris Harris: “I thought they were going to kill us. I drew my gun and fired a shot at one of them, but I guess I missed. I would like to talk to my lawyer before I make any statement.”

    Girlfriend: “I was terrified. I thought they were going to kill us. I would like to talk to my lawyer before I make any statement.”

    Then STFU. NEVER NEVER NEVER mention the words “warning shot”, because that is an admission that you did not think you were in “the IMMEDIATE danger of death or grave bodily harm.”

    STFU!!!!!!

  49. The “news” URL left out a lot of details: This guy was going to his door and his fiance was in the car, when the thugs approached. The girlfriend was the one with the pistol and a CCW permit. Somehow, she ended up outside the car with her pistol drawn.

    The girlfriend – who is a “self-defense instructor” – was shaking so badly that her boyfriend took the pistol away from her, before one of the thugs did. This guy who fired the warning shot also says that both he and his girlfriend “have extensive firearms training”.

  50. The question isn’t so much of whether the police arrested him. The question is whether the jurisdiction is going to prosecute?

    By discharging his weapon, he was assured of an arrest, regardless. It’s up to the DA – whether he respects common sense – now.

  51. To me, a warning shot is shooting the guy once. Statistically, you have over an 80% chance of survival from a single handgun shot. Plus, you don’t have to worry about where the bullet lands because you know it is in his gut.

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