New Florida law makes warning shots legal

On June 27, 2014, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill making it legal in some situations to fire a warning shot if you feel threatened.

According to WPTV in West Palm Beach, “The bill was inspired by the case of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who faces 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot during a domestic dispute.”

We’ve written about warning shots in a previous post, recommending against them and quoting from The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws by Ken Hanson:

Prosecutors have another term for warning shots: attempted felonious assault, improper discharge of a firearm etc. Shooting someone in the leg rather than center mass is similarly misguided and will not evade serious felony charges. Similarly, pulling out a gun just to “defuse the situation” is a legal non-starter. Do not be tempted to do this. If the gun comes out of the holster, the gun owner had better be justified in immediately employing it fully. There is no such thing as a warning shot or shooting to wound. This will be construed as a miss, bad marksmanship and perhaps even attempted murder.

While written for Ohio residents, this is wise advice regardless where you live.

On the excellent website Active Response Training, Greg Ellifritz, a police officer and self defense expert, comments on the new Florida law, citing several reasons he believes that warning shots are ill-advised.

Seriously, warning shots are almost universally a bad idea. They show the determined attacker that you are somewhat less than willing to take a human life. That can actually embolden an attacker rather than cause the deterrence the shooter is seeking.

The other problem with warning shots is that the bullets have to go somewhere. Cranking off poorly-aimed rounds into an urban environment is just a bad idea. How would you feel if your “warning shot” hit a kid down the street?

On the other hand, the reason this law was signed is the fact that on some occasions, warning shots are effective. In most cases where warning shots work, the attacker was not determined and just looking for a “face saving” way to stop the fight. Those attackers wouldn’t have likely pressed the attack even if the warning shots weren’t fired.

We agree. While it’s impossible to lay down firm rules for any self defense scenario, which can change moment to moment and happen at lightning speed, the concept of the warning shot in an urban or suburban environment, in today’s litigious society, is best left to TV dramas.

If you honestly believe your life is in danger, and your gun is in your hand, you should not be “missing” with a warning shot. This is the moment to defend yourself.