If you are faced with a threat, is it okay to fire a warning shot? The truth is this: warning shots are a bad idea.

Only use deadly force against deadly force

Under Missouri law, you are only justified in using deadly force to protect yourself if you are facing an imminent threat of deadly force from your assailant. If you don’t need to use deadly force, it’s best to keep your firearm holstered. If you display a firearm in an angry or threatening manner, you commit the felony offense of unlawful use of a weapon.

This common criminal charge is filed against Missouri firearm owners on a regular basis who display their firearms in an angry or threatening manner, in a threatening situation. My advice is not to display your firearm unless you fully intend to use it in a case of justified self-defense.

Choose de-escalation

Many situations can be de-escalated before they become deadly. Always choose de-escalation if you can avoid the need to use deadly force.

Firing a warning shot could also lead to a criminal charge for the illegal discharge of a firearm. Warning shots risk stray bullets hitting unintended targets. Don’t risk killing or injuring an innocent bystander.

Your last resort

Let’s say, for instance, an angry motorist confronts you at a traffic light. Remain in your vehicle. If they don’t aim a gun at you, keep your firearm concealed. If they bang on your window, drive away if you can and call 911. As a firearm owner, the use of force is always a last resort.

I recommend avoiding warning shots across the board. If you find yourself in a situation where you must use deadly force to protect your life or the life of another, use your sound discretion and remember what the law considers to be a justified use of force. You can protect yourself with deadly force only when threatened with imminent deadly harm.