Recently I had the opportunity to speak to the local ABC Denver team to chime in on a incident where a supposed bounty hunter chased a robbery suspect out of a Subway store and fired first warning shots into the air and then fired shots at the robbers car in order to prevent his escape.
This are always fun interviews because I have to speak to the situation based on a limited number of known facts (at the time) and I always hope I don’t say anything that will generate too much hate mail later. You can watch the news story here, but I want to repeat here some of the core principles that I spoke about during the interview.
Warning Shots Are Almost Always A Bad Idea
On some logical level warning shots sound like a good idea. It would seem an effective way to deter a criminal from committing a crime or wanting to escape from one but as a general rule warning shots are a bad idea. Here are some reasons why:
- You are accountable for every bullet that leaves the firearm. Where do you think those warning shots are going to go? You probably don’t know but I can promise they don’t fly out into space and continue on to an uncharted planet.
- Firing warning shots has a few legal implications; specifically its a really good was for a prosecutor to prove that you had enough time to think and act before any lives were actually in danger.
- Warning shots are a really effective way to reduce the amount of ammunition you have available in your gun when you might actually need the ammunition to defend lives.
We Can’t Justify, Ethically or Legally, Using Deadly Force to Protect Property
Stuff is stuff. Life is life. While I often hear a lot of people in the gun community speak about how good it is to kill criminals and rid the world of them I’m more inclined to believe that my job is not to judge if people deserve to live or not, nor am I likely capable of doing so. My job is to defend lives where necessary by acting in a way that I believe will adequately stop the threat. So when we are talking about someone who has stolen something or has in some way put property at risk I have a hard time imagining any way in which we would be justified in using deadly force unless we feel it necessary to also defend human life.
This incident occurred in Colorado and state and local laws may vary where you live but hopefully these principles make sense regardless.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts about these topics in the comments below.