Thursday, February 9, 2012

Warning Shots-gate

The controversy of the day on Thursday was whether or not it is appropriate to fire warning shots with a gun to deter someone threatening your life. Recent comments by the Justice Minister set off a small media firestorm, including attacks in Question Period and a grilling on the Soloman Show. Though when Evan ran a poll asking "should you be able to defend your property with a gun?" it is unlikely he was expecting 80% of his audience to answer "yes". You can lead sheep to water, but you can't always make them drink. He should have asked if it is cool to fire warning shots.

Today's poll question; if you are being threatened, is it acceptable to fire warning shots with a gun?


  1. I'd say it depends entirely on the level of threat being posed, ut your poll doesn't break it down that far.

    1. Would you be happier if I listed all the possible scenarios where you might want to consider warning shots?

      Undecided is an option.

  2. Warning shots are problematic Iceman. I agree with the Minister, however, it's in some sense "safer" to shoot at the person. That makes shooting to kill preferable in most ways to firing warning shots.

    For one thing, when repelling a determined attack, warning shots may not work, and someone using warning shots may yeild precious time to their attacker. The situation can go completely pear-shaped because the shooter was hesitant to go directly for the kill.

    For another, once you pull the trigger, it's too late to call it back. Warning shots are by definition stray shots, and so a shooter needs to be absolutely certain that their rounds don't hit anybody other than the attacker. That's may be extremely difficult to do in a stressful situation, and may be altogether impossible.

    When repelling an attack, the goal of any shooter should be to end the attack as quickly and decisively as possible. That means two rounds in the center of mass, and if you're into IDPA, one round in the head if they're armed. Warning shots are not, strictly speaking decisive enough, and add too much risk in a determined attack.

    Of course, a half-hearted attack may be dissuaded by warning shots, by the degree of determination in an attacker is never evident until after the fact.

    Ultimately, there should be no legal penalty available for warning shots, but neither should they be encouraged. Rather, it is more appropriate to remove legal penalties for self-defense, even including legal penalties for justifiable homicide.

    1. Not hitting innocent people "may be altogether impossible"??? That's a ridiculous statement. The probability of firing a gun in the air and hitting an innocent bystandard is infinitesimal.

      So it's better to just shoot people??? Come on man!

    2. What if you are being attacked on a crowded city street?

      The chances are sometimes infintesimal, but not always. Each situation is different, and under stress, people sometimes make very bad decisions.

      No, it's not necessarily better, as in, more ethical, to shoot people. However, requiring warning shots for instance can easily turn managable risk, into unmanagable risk. Any shooter in a self-defense situation should as a secondary consideration seek to eliminate as many variables as possible from the situation. The first consideration is, as stated, to end the attack as decisively and as quickly as possible. The second consideration should be to minimize as many variables as possible.

      It's "safer" to aim at the attacker, and eliminate that variable as decisively and as quickly as possible.

      If you fire a warning shot, the attacker may continue their attack. They might grab a hostage if one is available. They might run away. They might wet themselves. They might pull a firearm and kill you before you have a chance to respond.

      Only aiming for the attacker has the greates chance of minimizing each of these variables. Warning shots are commendable, but they are also inherently risky. Each warning shot dramatically multiplies the possibility that something will go drastically wrong.

    3. Unless the Canucks just lost the Stanley Cup, how often are people attacked on crowded city streets? You should not be pulling out a gun to shoot anyone in a crowd of people. You are more likely to hit an innocent if you fire straight ahead at the attacker than firing in the air. But either way, that's a situation where you should not be pulling out a gun.

      Besides, concealed handguns are illegal, so are you walking down a crowded city street with a rifle in your holster?

    4. Oh. And a ricochet can kill just as dead as as shot to the head. Soft tissues dramatically reduce the possiblity of a ricochet - ususally to zero. A warning shot has no such guarantee. A ricochet might even hit the shooter.

    5. how often are people attacked on crowded city streets?

      There was just recently a self-defense shooting in Canada where a jewlery store kept a handgun nearby for defense, and successfully repelled an armed robbery.

      From what I've seen, most jewelry store fronts which aren't in shopping malls are located on downtown city streets, and the front is pretty much all glass. Glass, is not normally bullet-proof, and most stores probably can't afford to put bullet-proof glass on their storefront. In that situation, obviously, it would have been criminally irresponsible to fire a warning shot. The jewler did the right thing by aiming for the attacker.

    6. Yes they do happen, but the probability is microscopic. If I want to go for a walk through downtown Vancouver, what is the probability I'll be attacked or near an armed robbery? 1 in 100,000? 1 in 1,000,000? You are more likely to be struck by lightning. If you are heading downtown, you can feel safe leaving your shot gun at home.

    7. In the unlikely event you are at a bank during a robery, your odds of survival are far higher if you drop to the ground and play dead. Cross fire is more likely to get yourself and others killed.

      Home invasions are a completely different ball game than downtown.

    8. Of course it's infintessimal - there's no argument there.

      But that's not the point.

      The point is that warning shots are almost never preferrable to aiming directly at the attacker because warning shots allow for too much possibility that things go wrong. There's also no question that things can go wrong when shooting at the person. But that possibility is far less than deliberately firing warning shots. Warning shots can be more dangerous than shooting to kill. I for one am willing to use a firearm in self-defense, and under the vast majority of circumstances, I would not fire a warning shot, because I am not prepared to assume the risk associated with a warning shot.

      The chances of being attacked are small, of course. But they are irrelevant to a discussion which is supposed to be considering the merits vs. the draw-backs of warning shots.

  3. AnonymousFeb 10, 2012 06:11 AM has pretty much put my thoughts down in print.

    It's along the lines of "brandishing" a knife. It's not about show and tell, it's about saving your life and your opponent should be aware of the knife when it's removed from his body. Sound gross? It is. Life and death conflict is like that.

  4. In the heat of the moment we might over-react in defense of our home, but we have an absolute right (even an obligation) to remove the threat from someone who has absolutely no right to trespass. This is natural law, the basis for conservatism - equivocators, please call yourselves progressive or some other leftish moniker.

  5. I don't agree with the "warning shot" senario, In a situation that presents a clear and present danger to yourself or family member, such as a robbery or home invasion.
    There is no substitute for the "double tap".
    Don't come kicking my door in.

  6. I agree I think he should have shot these people dead. Warning shots don't do any good. I can tell you I won't lay down and take it from some attacker. If they come for me they better be prepared to die.

  7. Warning shot to the chest is the best ...

  8. Interesting comments. The perfect scenario for firing a warning shot happened to a guy I knew,a farmer,who heard a noise one night,and looked out to see a couple of guys snooping around his machinery shed.

    Since theft of expensive farm equipment was rampant in the area at that time, he called the RCMP,who told him they were too busy and to handle it himself.

    So, he opened his front door,stepped out with his loaded 12 gauge,yelled "get the f*** outta here",or words to that effect,and fired a shot straight up into the air.

    The intruders,for want of a better term, fled the scene to the road where they jumped in their pickup and drove away pedal-to-the -metal.

    It worked,they never came back. But, that's a rural scenario, lots of wide open spaces,nearest neighbor half a mile away.

    I shared a duplex in Surrey years ago with a couple who had woken one night to find a person climbing through their bedroom window one night. The guy yelled,his wife screamed, and fortunately,the person jumped right back out the window. He then equipped himself with a Louisville slugger.In that case a warning shot would have done the job of scaring away the intruder,but where the shot went could have been interesting.

    If someone in an apartment was to fire a warning shot,especially if that shot came from a hunting rifle such as a 30-06,the bullet could do some serious damage to anyone nearby,so it's way too dangerous.

    The homeowner would be better off to point the rifle,yell, "I've got a gun on you" and fire for the mid-body mass if the person advanced.But a warning shot from a hunting rifle, not a good idea in this case.

    My choice for a home defence gun is the Defender. It's cheap,lethal, and at short range loaded with SSG,you almost can't miss. You also don't need a "Restricted" PAL,and you don't have to be an expert shot.

    Again,if I had time,I would shout,"I've got a gun on you" and hope like hell the intruder has the sense to run. If he advanced after the warning,sorry, BOOM!

    There are so many different scenarios,there really IS no perfect answer to whether a person can or should fire a warning shot. There are so many factors to consider,it's worse than taking the BC Driver's Licence exam.

    I suppose you do what you think is the right thing at the time,and hope in the end you choose the right alternative.

  9. The only "warning shot" I'm willing to give them, because I live in an urban area, is the sound that the action makes on my shotgun. If an intruder hasn't gotten the message after that, they will be made to understood through the liberal application of 00 buckshot.

  10. My choice for a home defence gun is the Defender. It's cheap,lethal, and at short range loaded with SSG,you almost can't miss. You also don't need a "Restricted" PAL,and you don't have to be an expert shot.

    For what it's worth, in a home defense situation, a 12 ga. with SSG will not spread more than your hand and a miss will scream through multiple dry wall walls, killing anyone in their path. They don't spread out as is assumed, making the need for accuracy unimportant.

    Therein lies the warning shot/missed shot dilemma. These bullets don't really care where they go or who they hit. To carry and/or use a firearm for defense is a very serious responsibility.

    Thank God for a Conservative Government. We'd never be having this discussion in parliament without Steven Harper, my, much loved Prime Minister.

  11. What's the point of firing a warning shot, if you are not allowed to follow through on the warning.