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Gun Laws on Warning Shots

If you are a CPL holder carrying a pistol outside your home, or if you are using a gun in your home for self-defense, then you might think you are better off trying to scare a would-be criminal than actually using your weapon to harm or kill them.

While it is always best to avoid the use of your weapon, and certainly better to avoid the use of lethal force whenever possible, firing warning shots instead may not be your best option. Warning shots can get you into legal trouble too, and there are no presumptions to protect you. If you want to know more about Michigan gun laws on warning shots, consult a knowledgeable gun lawyer that can explain them to you.

Legal Standards for Warning Shots

Michigan gun laws on warning shots are not clear. The term warning shot does not appear in the Michigan Penal Code and is not otherwise contained in the Self-Defense Act. Without clear guidance from statutory law, courts are left to determine if the action of firing a warning shot is to be considered under either the use of force standard or the use of deadly force standard.

Although the firing of a warning shot is not per se legally forbidden, one should be aware that if they fire a warning shot, it is highly likely that their conduct will be judged under the legal standard that they have used deadly force and not just mere force.

This means that a person may only be allowed the legal argument of justification if a warning shot is fired in situations in which deadly force is justified under the Michigan Self-Defense Act.

Prosecuting Warning Shots

There is little appellate court case law demonstrating how Michigan Courts have addressed the issue of warning shots.

Every gun owner should be aware that one likely argument a prosecutor may put forth against a defendant at trial is that the simple discharge of a firearm is an assault, because it puts a person in reasonable fear of a battery, and the person firing the shot clearly had the ability to follow through on the threat.

Additionally, a prosecutor may argue that this action can cause death or serious bodily injury. Such an argument, if successful, will shift the analysis of warning shots into the use of deadly force arena and whether a person intended that action or not.

The Role of a Jury in Warning Shot Cases

Who decides if a warning shot is a warning shot and not a shot at someone that simply missed? Who decides if a response to a situation is reasonable? In the vast majority of cases in Michigan, a jury ultimately decides.

There are no solid Michigan gun laws on warning shots, so be advised that a warning shot can potentially be viewed as a use of deadly force whether a person subjectively intended it to or not, and, therefore, should never be used without careful consideration. If you want to know more about your gun rights, especially with regards to warning shots, consult an attorney that can protect your rights, while defending you.

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