Why 'Warning Shots' Are A Bad Idea

AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Whenever someone who’s familiar with gun laws and the use of firearms in a defensive situation talks to someone who isn’t, especially about a fatal shooting, the non-gun person is likely to bring up the concept of “warning shots.” The idea is that you pop off a round and scare the bad guy away without potentially killing them.


However, over the weekend in my home town, there was a case that illustrates part of the problem with that thinking.

According to APD, when they arrived they found Jamie Lee Lewis, 41, fatally shot and now the resident, David McDuffie, 65, is being detained.

McDuffie told police when he arrived home, he noticed an unknown person acting strangely across the street in a field, according to a release.

He unlocked his gate, pulled his car into his driveway, and noticed Lewis moving closer to his property.

McDuffie told police Lewis came into his yard and pulled on the screen door and entered his porch area, that’s when he fired at Lewis warning him not to come on his property, according to a release.

The problem is that, based on this report, we don’t know why Lewis was approaching the home. It also sounds like McDuffie didn’t know either.

The reason those of us familiar with guns and their use in defensive situations don’t advocate warning shots is simple. The moment that bullet leaves your barrel, you’re responsible for what happens. In this case, the bullet entered the person the shot was supposed to warn off.


How did that work out?

Look, if you’re going to need your weapon, you’d better be in the clear to shoot the individual. Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state, but it’s unlikely this will apply because there are myriad reasons that Lewis may have been approaching the home. Maybe he was having car trouble and needed help, or he was waiting for someone and thought McDuffie was that person.

We don’t know.

Is it likely that Lewis was up to no good? Possibly. My hometown isn’t exactly a nice place to live, after all. Crime is common, and it looks like McDuffie was living in an area where there’s more of a concern about crime than most.

While I can’t speak about Lewis or his intentions, I can say that McDuffie may have been warranted to be concerned about the other man. But concern alone doesn’t justify using lethal force.

He sought to scare off the potential intruder, but now he’s the one facing charges.

Warning shots are stupid. You’re responsible for every round you fire. If you need to shoot, shoot, but don’t do it in hopes that you won’t have to shoot and mean it. Stuff happens, and you may end up killing someone anyway, but then you’ll potentially face charges.


It’s one thing to have your weapon ready, but the moment you pull that trigger on anything that’s not a legitimate threat, you’re in trouble. At the very least, you’ll run afoul of a city ordinance against discharging a firearm within the city limits. That’s if you’re lucky.

Folks, to put it simply for any of those who may read this that are learning impaired. If you’re justified in pulling the trigger, it’s a case of being justified to shoot the threat. Warning shots rarely work except on those who aren’t really a threat in the first place, but it can land you in the slammer.

Just don’t do it.

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