Hi, Ed Riley, U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney from Virginia. Warning shots: are they ever a good idea?
What is a Warning Shot?
A warning shot is an intentional gunshot often made with the firearm pointed in the air or at the ground with the intent not to harm, but to subdue or scare off an attacker. The purpose of firing a warning shot or shots is typically to warn or intimidate an opponent that they might be shot if directions are not followed and/or to showcase one’s capability or will to act, if provoked. They’re intended to convince a potentially hostile force to withdraw or cease its actions.
Warning shots are commonly portrayed in movies and television, making it seem like a good idea. However, the reality is that warning shots are not recommended, and will almost always get you in trouble. The firing of a gun is considered a use of deadly force. You better make sure that your use of deadly force is lawful under the circumstances or you will likely find yourself facing criminal charges. Virginia Code 18.2-280, as well as many Virginia local municipal ordinances, criminalizes the willful discharge of a firearm in public and/or anywhere within its jurisdiction; unless the use of deadly force is justified or excused.
The unwanted consequences of a warning shot that is fired into the air or in some other direction and strikes an unintended target will likely cause you further legal trouble.
Call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney if you have any questions about the firing of warning shots.