You have a right to bear arms as an American citizen, but with that right comes the responsibility to know the laws governing how and when you may use it in self-defense. Ignorance of the law—and the willingness to follow the advice of the man once known as, “the dumbest man in the U.S. Senate” according to Mark Levine—is no excuse.

Jeffrey C. Barton, 53, made international news when he told journalists: “I did what Joe Biden told me to do. I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air.”

He did this at about 3 a.m. on July 15, 2013, when he was alerted by a neighbor to people rifling through his vehicles, parked in his driveway in the 5800 block of Northeast 124th Street. Barton chased the alleged prowlers, punched one of them in the face and fired three rounds from his shotgun, according to accounts of the event.

Barton’s statement to reporters was a reference to the vice president’s answer to a question earlier that same year about home defense. Biden responded that Americans don’t need to own semiautomatic weapons, because a couple blasts from a shotgun will scare off intruders.

Barton was originally charged with illegally discharging a firearm, a misdemeanor, but prosecutors dismissed the weapons charge in August and instead charged Barton with obstructing a police officer.

It is well known that you do not chase people while brandishing a firearm for a raft legal and practical reasons, most of which boil down to you being perceived as or becoming the aggressor. When you start chasing people lawful self-defense generally goes out the window.

It is also well known that firing “warning shots” is illegal in most jurisdictions.

Jeffrey C. Barton obtained firearms, but never bothered to learn the laws governing their lawful use. That was grossly irresponsible. He is extremely fortunate that prosecutors did not press charges for three counts of illegally discharging a firearm.

Barton is even luckier that he didn’t get shot when police arrived on the scene and he belligerently refused to follow their lawful commands. He even kept reaching behind his back, making officers fearful that he may have had another weapon.

“Everyone complied, everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing — except for Mr. Barton,” Ternus said. “It slowed the whole thing down.”

After the verdict, Barton said that the incident has led to his decision to leave his home, where he has resided since 1990.

“You folks have a good time in Clark County because once all that’s said and done, I’m out of here,” he said. “That’s what you get for exercising my Second Amendment rights and protecting my family.”

Clark County isn’t the problem, Mr. Barton.

You are.

You do not have the right to chase people with weapons. You do not have the right to discharge weapons just because you feel like doing so while chasing other people. You do not have the right to obstruct a police investigation and put the lives of officers and other people at risk. None of these things are protected in the slightest by the Second Amendment.


(Image: Natalie Behring/The Columbian)