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Gunfire has been used as a means of signaling and communications as long as there have been guns. A warning shot is essentially a means of communicating a deadly threat without actually harming the person being warned. I may have to start a new category: warming shots that worked. I have routinely advised students against firing warning shots with the usual caveats; the bullet has to go somewhere, innocents may be hit, and a round is wasted that you might need. Not to mention it’s frequently illegal. Many claim that a warning shot may be considered as evidence that the warning shot shooter wasn’t serious. I think that is unlikely. And there is apparently at least one prosecutor who thinks that firing a warning shot demonstrates restraint . . .

In Las Vegas, there was a recent attempted restaurant robbery. From

According to reports, a family saw the robbery and followed the suspect. The father, who holds a concealed weapons permit, fired a shot into the air. This was enough to spook the suspect into dropping the cash register and fleeing.


It’s noteworthy that the local reporter praises the armed citizen. From video:

Reporter Denise Wong: “I am sure that a lot of customers are very glad that guy had a gun on him last night.”

Second Amendment supporters are winning the culture war. The police captured the suspect a couple of blocks from the dropped cash box.

The suspect, Dillon Webb, is now in custody.

©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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  1. A warning shot may sometimes work. Sometimes (probably not as often) it may be a good idea.

    Biden wasn’t right, though. About pretty much anything.

    • Biden was definitely right about one thing:
      “Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”
      Everybody should buy two shotguns. And make sure to store them next to your AR-15 in the safe.

  2. I’m down with how this turned out, but the gun owner:

    1. left his family
    2. followed the suspect
    3. fired into the air

    Imminent danger doesn’t seem to have been present. It’s a good thing it’s not NJ.

  3. Biden’s advice, on anything, is as useful as a sundial during an arctic winter.

    Spoken as someone currently enduring an arctic winter, only 2 more months till sun up!

  4. I always recommend firing warning shots at the left ear if they are facing you, right ear if they are running away.
    But seriously, the problem is that like photographers, you tend to focus on the subject and disregard the background unless you are trained to do otherwise and adrenaline isn’t taking over.
    Ever take a GREAT picture and later realize some geek in the background ruined the photo?
    On the other hand, I’m a bit prejudiced. One of my girlfriends in college took a .45 slug to the head in New Orleans on New Years eve thanks to some idiot who fired it into the air to celebrate the new year. Thankfully she survived.

  5. I have always questioned those who say a warning shot is never a good idea. There are situations where it’s more likely to preserve life than harm someone. But shooting a projectile into the air is not a good idea, unless you are miles away from other humans.

    • I agree completely.

      Warning shots should be placed just as carefully as any other intentional pull of the trigger. It should be placed into the ground, a tree, or something that will absorb the round that absolutely nobody cares about. Like a Chevy or something…

      Also, there are times when I will absolutely consider a warning shot before an shot into a human.

      1. If I need assistance, three quick groups of three rounds will signal most SaR or LEOs to my presence if I am in trouble. (Just make sure you’re not still holding the firearm when armed cops arrive and let them know that you fired the shots as a call for help immediately.)

      2. If I’m too far away to safely place shots into a bad guy, but feel that letting the presence of an armed person would de-escilate a situation without the loss of life.

      3. If I need to create a couple of seconds of compliance from a violent person, placing the muzzle of my pistol near their ear and putting a round into the dirt will all but promise two seconds of that person doing nothing but screaming and holding their ear. I’ve done this in the military while escorting prisoners and it worked every time. You just have to tell the people you hand them over to which ear they can’t hear out of anymore.

      4. Pretty much any other situation I can think of would just involve shooting the violent person, but I’m sure there’s something I’m leaving out. Biden’s advice to scare intruders away before they enter your house by blasting off two shots was stupid. I’d be more likely to actually unlock and open the door for them and just shoot them the second they stepped inside rather than take his advice and I don’t plan on opening my door for robbers any time soon.

  6. Even a broken clock is right twice a day…I wouldn’t leave my family and follow some guy with a cash register. Glad he wasn’t charged but it could’ve turned out really badly. Shotgun Joe is an idiot.

  7. I am with above opinion. No immediate threat. Cash can be replaced along with register. NJ. Who carries in NJ outside LEOs. Few and privileged.

  8. Wow, what could possibly go wrong?

    All while having his family in tow, not his money and all that incurred liability. Glad he got the guy but not a risk I’d take over a crappy chain restaurant’s money.

    • I remember a couple of months ago there was a guy who fired shots into a brick wall in front of a police officer to warn him of a possible ambush he saw comming. Pretty sure they uncuffed him as soon as they realized he was trying to save the cops life and was actually aiming at the brick wall.

      I would have screamed “ambush ahead” or something probably, but can’t really say too much bad about the guy as everyone survived the day.

  9. I fired a bullet in the air,
    It fell to earth, I knew not where

    Even Longfellow knew that’s a bad idea.

  10. I have not seen Biden right about anything yet. I hold out a sliver of hope.

    Warning shots are usually not a good idea. However, each case should be judged on it own merit. I have never seen a warming shot effective, except one time. Similarly, two crooks dropped the item they had taken, this time a Sony projection screen TV, which already weighed a huge amount (happened right after the Sony projection TVs were newly introduced) and the burglars were not interested in any confrontation. Deputies arrested the criminals about a mile away, having had truck trouble on the side of the road. It is a good thing that most crooks are stupid and inept.

  11. The argument against warning shots isn’t that they don’t work. The reason not to fire a warning shot is by doing so, you have just proven that you were not in imminent danger. At that point, any laws regarding discharging a firearm (not in a DGU) apply.

  12. Maybe it was a clever typo but I agree a
    “w a r m i n g” shot that gets the perps blood moving in his brain to decide to cease and desist, is preferably to a cooling shot, as in the “room tempurature” cooling.
    Saves some legal hassle maybe.

  13. Seems like an unnecessary risk for a property crime.
    And when I say risk, I mean the legal issues, not from the robber, which was probably less danger than an overzealous DA would be.

  14. No, Biden was not right. Not about this and not about literally anything under the Sun, frankly, and simply for the fact that he is Joe Biden. Nevermind that he is also a politician, and therefore by default he is automatically the lowest form of life on all of God’s good green Earth.

  15. What goes up must come down. You are responsible for every bullet that leaves your weapon. these two facts combine and make firing a “warning shot” in the air a TERRIBLE idea! even with a scattergun (shotgun) you can do unintended damage to nearby property that you are liable for.

  16. Wrong on several points. Do not chase the suspect. Beside the legal reasons, it violates a very key rule: Never leave the people you are trying to protect alone and defenseless to play hero. Second, your greatest weakness is not knowing the full scope of the assault. He could have friends waiting outside ready to ambush you. Criminals often work as teams. And if you are ever crazy enough to fire a warning shot, let your lawyer explain it as an accidental discharge from someone who feared for his life.

  17. are most defensive shootings in areas will people are close by anyway?? are there ususally missed targets in defensive shootings??? what harm is a warning shot if yes is the answer to the above questions anyway???

  18. Isn’t Biden supposed to be using a typewriter along with lots of his friends to eventually produce something worthwhile?

  19. Why are we taking an anecdotal case and treating it like it’s the standard? If we’re going to do that, then the antis may have a case when they cite an irresponsible gun owner as being the norm.

    • Because all we have is anecdotal cases. Anecdotal cases about both negative and positive uses of warning shots. I am seeing far more positive uses than I am seeing negative ones, but that does not make warning shots good policy. It helps make the case that there are some circumstances when they are warranted.

  20. I really don’t understand the merits of a warning shoot. Restraint is keeping your gun holstered. If the situation has escalated to warrant pulling a firearm, then all shots should be toward eliminating the threat.

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