We previously discussed the questionable advice of Vice President Joe Biden for people to fire shotguns out of windows to scare off possible intruders. He added “[if] you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door.” I suggested that such acts would raise criminal and tort liability issues. There now appears a man who followed the same approach and found himself criminally charged. In Virginia Beach, Trevor Lamont Snowden, 22, is charged with reckless handling of a firearm after fired his gun through a door and out his window to scare off intruders.
A woman at a Parents Magazine town hall asked 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.”
In the Virginia case, the man actually saw two masked men leaning into his bedroom window. He fired through his door and fired several time at the window. No suspects were found and no one was injured.
The Virginia code states:
§ 18.2-56.1. Reckless handling of firearms; reckless handling while hunting.
A. It shall be unlawful for any person to handle recklessly any firearm so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person. Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Even in the context of a hunting party, the act of shooting without a clear target or consideration of unknown individuals in the area is the basis for negligence per se. Schlimmer v. Poverty Hunt Club,
268 Va. 74; 597 S.E.2d 43 (2004). We have also seem prosecutors and others charged for firing warning shots or discharging weapons in their home. Even in a rural area, it is possible to hit neighbors or trespassers crossing property (a common practice) or others like police, firefighters, or public employees on the land lawfully. We recently saw a case of a man shot while cutting across a rural estate.
Unfortunately, this is debate often comes with a strong political bias. If Rick Perry had suggested sticking shotguns out windows and firing them, he would have been ridiculed and widely condemned. The advice is both dangerous and ill-conceived by Biden or anyone else. Yes, there are ways to fire a shotgun in the air to avoid hitting someone but casually advising the firing of guns out windows is neither responsible nor wise.
Source: Hampton Roads