Saturday, March 22, 2014

Does The Marissa Alexander Case Merit The Legalization Of Warning Shots?

I have written on the subject of warning shots a few times over the years. In every blog post on the subject, I have consistently derided the practice of "warning shots" as a bad idea. Well, this past Friday the Florida House joined the Florida Senate in approving legislation that would allow warning shots by citizens when faced with either great bodily harm or death.

The approved legislation was obviously inspired by the Marissa Alexander case. In that case, Alexander was convicted on firearms related offenses as a result of her actions in the aftermath of an altercation with her allegedly abusive and estranged husband. Under mandatory sentencing guidelines, she was sent to prison for twenty years.

It had been consistently reported that her husband blocked her egress from a room one day during a disturbance. Alexander left the home by going in another direction and entered the garage to retrieve a handgun from a vehicle, and returned into the home to fire warning shots.

Of course, we all know that at that time that warning shots were illegal in Florida at that time. Once Alexander removed herself from the home and entered the garage, she was "safe" and certainly had an opportunity to leave the premises if she wanted to do so. If she was under any reasonable threats of imminent danger in the house earlier, those circumstances were treated as a separate incident.

She created a new incident by coming into the home with a firearm and intentionally firing at least one warning shot to put her husband into a state of fear. Her actions were clearly illegal and led to her conviction. Warning shots are ill-advised and are usually illegal in all states because a person can never predict where discharged bullets will come to rest.

A firearm operator is responsible for every bullet that exits his firearm. If any discharges lead to the destruction of property or an injury to a person who did not reasonably put the shooter in fear of at least great bodily harm, the shooter will face a long list of criminal charges.

In addition, the legalization of warning shots could put operators under a greater degree of scrutiny in the aftermath of a bona fide self-defense shooting. It could be possible that prosecutors could then be able to ask shooters why did they shoot a rapist instead of "warning" him.

The biggest point in all of this discussion is that this new legislation probably would not have helped Alexander in her case. After all, she walked into a home with a gun and faced a person who did not pose at threat to her - at that time - and then fired her gun. That act would have still been illegal. Toss in the facts that innocent people could be unintentionally injured and that victims would have to correctly decide whether a warning shot is preferable to actually shooting a would-be rapist and it is abundantly clear that this new Florida legislation is a huge train wreck just waiting to happen.

Owning a firearm is a grave and huge responsibility. Knowing the law is part of that responsibility. Legalizing warning shots because of the Alexander case defies reason.

About The Author
Rick Ector is a National Rifle Association credentialed Firearms Trainer, who provides Michigan CCW Class training in Detroit for students at his firearms school - Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit.

Ector is a recognized expert in firearm safety and has been featured extensively in the national and local media: Associated Press, UPI, NRAnews, Guns Digest, Tactical-Life, The Truth About Guns, The Politics Daily, Fox News Detroit, The Detroit News, The Detroit Examiner, WJLB, WGPR, and the UrbanShooterPodcast.

For more info about free shooting lessons for women and Michigan CCW Classes, please contact:

Rick's Firearm Academy of Detroit
Phone: 313.733.74

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