A Washington man who invoked the “Joe Biden” defense — i.e., that when faced with a threat that may or may not be life-threatening, just shoot wildly into their air — learned on Friday to his astonishment that the the Vice President’s tactical advice doesn’t carry much weight in a court of law . . .
Jeffrey C. Barton, 53, made international news when he told journalists: “I did what Joe Biden told me to do. I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air.”
He did this at about 3 a.m. on July 15, 2013, when he was alerted by a neighbor to people rifling through his vehicles, parked in his driveway in the 5800 block of Northeast 124th Street. Barton chased the alleged prowlers, punched one of them in the face and fired three rounds from his shotgun, according to accounts of the event.
Barton’s statement to reporters was a reference to the vice president’s answer to a question earlier that same year about home defense. Biden responded that Americans don’t need to own semiautomatic weapons, because a couple blasts from a shotgun will scare off intruders.
Barton was originally charged with illegally discharging a firearm, a misdemeanor, but prosecutors dismissed the weapons charge in August and instead charged Barton with obstructing a police officer.
For the record, Biden’s comments on the subject were:
“I said, ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,'” Biden said.
“You don’t need an AR-15—it’s harder to aim,” he added, “it’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”
In the end, of course, the Joe Biden defense wasn’t really appropriate here, since the charge Barton faced wasn’t shooting like a damn fool into the air, but ‘obstructing a police officer’. That said, I’d still urge people to reconsider before raising the Biden defense in any legal matter.