Vice President Joe Biden latest controversial statement has produced some interesting criticism. Biden was asked recently if the ban on certain guns would put people at risk. He responded by encouraging people to buy shotguns and fire them out the window. It was pretty dim-witted advice since that would be illegal, but is it sexist as well as stupid?
A women at a Parents Magazine town hall as Biden “Do you believe that banning certain weapons and high capacity magazines will mean that law-abiding citizens will then become more of a target to criminals as we will have no way to sufficiently protect ourselves?”
Biden immediately did what he does best: put his foot in his mouth and then shoot himself in the foot. Biden chuckled and responded: “As I told my wife — we live in an area that’s wooded and somewhat secluded — I said, ‘Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony, put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,’” Biden said. “I promise you whoseever [sic] coming in is not gonna — you don’t need an AR-15. It’s harder to aim, it’s harder to use, and in fact you don’t need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun.”
Kate Ernest later went on Fox and said that Biden sounded sexist: “I think it was poor advice and it comes off a little sexist. Like, ‘let me tell you what you need’ versus, you know, ‘arm yourself or protect yourself in a way that you feel necessary.” Really. You ask Biden for advice on guns. He gives you advice on guns and then you say it was sexist to “tell you what you need.”
No it was not sexist, Ms. Ernest, just stupid.
As a torts professor and criminal defense attorney, I can assure you that firing a shotgun out your window or porch is both illegal and negligent. State laws and regulations strongly reinforce the need to have a clear target or view in shooting a weapon and do not countenance shooting blindly out of window, even on private property or in rural areas. Yes, you may to scare off a prowler as well as gun down your neighbor. If his wife were to follow Biden’s sage advice, she would be looking at possible criminal charges for aggravated menacing, reckless endangerment, and other crimes in Delaware and other states. She would also be subject to tort liability for negligence, assault, and possible battery or wrongful death. It is not generally considered reasonable mistaken self-defense to fire a weapon out a window to scare off the neighbors. Indeed, not long ago, a prosecutor was arrested for such a warning shot.
Now, the Ms. Biden’s possible defense is strengthened by the fact that he described his home as being “wooded and somewhat secluded.” Moreover a shotgun pellet has a shorter trajectory than a bullet. However, we have people hit every year by folks who think they can harmless fire guns in rural areas or in the air. This includes police officers, mail carriers, and others who lawfully come on to property as well as common trespassers in rural areas who cut across land like the recent tragic case in Oregon.