US News: Biden’s legal advice will get you arrested

posted at 2:41 pm on February 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

When I first heard about Joe Biden’s response to a question about home defense, I said, “What?” As it turns out, I wasn’t alone in my shock over the extremely dangerous advice given by Biden as an alternative to owning an AR-15 or a high-capacity magazine for any other semiautomatic.  If you follow the Vice President’s advice here, you may well find yourself in prison for negligent homicide, as US News explains:

“I said, ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,’” Biden said.

“You don’t need an AR-15—it’s harder to aim,” he added, “it’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!”

Before we get to Steven Nelson’s analysis of the “the worst type of advice,” Allahpundit made a point about the weapon choice:

Here’s the vice president of the United States encouraging you to go on out and get yourself a 12-gauge, just like the one he’s got. Why? Because it’s easier to aim and use than an AR-15, which … I’m pretty sure isn’t true, but whatever. Just buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun. That way, if ever you snap and head off on a killing spree, the death toll will be limited. Unless you bring a bag of shells with you and reload quickly, I guess. In which case, who knows?

A shotgun is a good choice for home defense, but not the double-barreled type, unless you’re fortunate to only have one threat in front of you.  It takes too much time to open the weapon, pull out the spent shells, and reload, especially when frightened and stressed.  A pump-action shotgun is a much better choice because (a) it holds more rounds in case there is more than one threat, and (b) no one can possibly mistake the cha-chunk of a pump loading the shell.  A shotgun is easier to aim because you don’t need as much precision to hit the target, as you would with an AR-15 and especially a pistol under stress.  If you get close, you’ll probably score a hit.

The rest, however, is nonsense — and dangerous nonsense, seemingly taken from TV shows rather than any sort of instruction on firearms use. Anyone who has gone through a firearms safety course knows this basic rule: Never fire a “warning shot” into the air — especially when it means you have to reload immediately, as you would with two blasts from a double-barreled shotgun; you’ve just effectively disarmed yourself.

But more to the point, it ignores the physics of the ammunition.  What goes up must come down, and when it does, it can kill — and often does:

Rob Wiltbank, a gun rights advocate who founded Delaware Open Carry in 2008, told U.S. News he agrees with the vice president that a shotgun would be good for home protection, but he was also troubled by the hypothetical.

“It would be incredibly irresponsible of a gun owner to blindly discharge a firearm into the air,” said Wiltbank. “What goes up, must come down and this specific behavior has been the cause of many negligent homicides over the years.”

Tom Shellenberger, a lawyer who serves as a spokesman for the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association, told U.S. News that Biden’s security tip was “the worst type of advice.”

It also ignores another key legal fact that people who study to carry weapons learn immediately, which is that one cannot use deadly force to protect property.  Self-defense in homicides only apply when there is a reasonable belief that one’s life is in imminent danger (or that of another):

Garey said that under Biden’s scenario, Jill Biden could be charged with aggravated menacing, a felony, and reckless endangering in the first degree.

“You cannot use deadly force to protect property” in Delaware, added Garey.

“It is not uncommon” for people to be charged with crimes under similar circumstances, he said. “I’ve seen cases where lawful citizens have used guns outside their homes and they end up arrested.”

Besides, it’s also tactically stupid:

In addition to felony charges, Shellenberger cited the “Discharge of a firearm within 15 yards of a road (7 Del.C. § 719), a misdemeanor,” and “Violation of the residential dwelling safety zone as set forth in 7 Del.C. § 723, also a misdemeanor.”

“Beyond the potential criminal liability, it is simply bad advice,” added Shellenberger. “Not only does blasting blindly away put innocent persons at risk, it also tells the bad guys where you are and that you are armed. In most circumstances, it might be better if that comes as a surprise to the bad guys.”

If Biden doesn’t have the common sense to understand any of the above, let alone all of the above, why should anyone trust his efforts to rewrite gun laws that limit our legal rights to self-defense?


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