Joe Biden is known for his gaffes, and he made another one last week with his shotgun comment. These words are a little different from others that he has misspoken because his advice on shotgun use is dangerous and illegal. Biden’s advice maybe the most irresponsible reference to guns by a sitting vice-president since Aaron Burr killed former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton – Dick Cheney excluded. (What is it about vice-presidents and guns, anyway?)
Speaking to an interviewer from Parents magazine, Biden burnished his crazy-uncle image.
“I said, Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out, put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house. I promise you: Whoever’s coming in is not going to — 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. Buy a shotgun.”
Biden’s preference for a shotgun for home defense is right on. A shotgun is easier to aim. An AR-15 might fire off a lot of rounds quickly but hitting a target, especially in a home setting, is a lot easier with a shotgun.
Beyond that advice, Biden’s advice is abominable. In one comment, has caused gun owners and gun-control advocates to both facepalm.
The assumption in Biden’s scenario is that there is someone lurking around the Biden house outside Wilimington, Delaware. Biden will probably explain his comments as assuming that the intruder is armed, but that doesn’t make his advice any more acceptable.
If an armed person is wandering someone’s property, the last thing a property owner wants to do is make themselves visible (walking onto a balcony) and emptying their gun by firing into the air. A double barrel shotgun has two shells, and then must be reloaded. After discharging the second cartridge, the intruder is going to have an opportunity to take control of the situation until the gun is reloaded. That’s a bad decision for anyone who is feeling threatened.
Biden’s advice is dangerous because it makes someone vulnerable in a dangerous setting. If it was a pump-action shotgun, then there could still be some ammunition left to use, but Biden didn’t suggest using that.
If an armed prowler is outside, the first thing a person should do is call 911 and lay low in the house. Make the intruder expose himself by trying to break in. At that point shooting the shotgun is justified and legal.
The other problem with Biden’s advice is that the use of force, such as firing a gun, needs to be proportional. In Biden’s scenario, he doesn’t even say that the threat is armed. Firing a gun is only acceptable during imminent danger. Biden’s wife, Jill, does not appear to be in that type of situation. She would have had a visible target if so.
If Jill fired off two shots, she would probably be violating Delaware law by committing reckless endangerment of the first or second degree “when the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death to another person.”
US News reported on the legality of the situation from the view of a prominent Delaware attorney:
Defense attorney John Garey—a former Delaware deputy attorney general—agreed, and added that several criminal charges might result if Jill Biden took her husband’s advice.
“In Delaware you have to be in fear of your life to use deadly force,” Garey said. “There’s nothing based on his scenario alone” indicating a reason to fear imminent death, he noted.
To be fair, it is doubtful that a prosecutor would bring charges against Biden because the shooting is being done in defense of her home, unless an errant shot injured or killed someone. Stepping outside and randomly firing a weapon makes that a very real possibility. That applies even to the “wooded and somewhat secluded” setting of Biden’s Delaware home.
Biden’s advice is the kind of irresponsible gun owner behavior that makes the pro-gun side cringe. It is the behavior that gun-control advocates point to as the reason that guns need to be limited. The irony is that Biden is arguing for gun control by appearing as a gun-waving, Ted Nugent-style nut.
Those who want gun control have to be a little embarrassed that one of their heroes in the call for banning assault weapons is promoting illegal and dangerous behavior.
Defenders of gun rights must also feel shocked. Biden’s cowboy-like suggestions are not the image of responsible gun use that groups like the NRA are trying to project.
Neither side can use Biden’s comments without showing weaknesses in their arguments. Yet there is one, clear lesson everyone – particularly Biden – can learn from this. That is the need for firearm training.
Unlike other pro-gun countries, such as Switzerland, few Americans ever take firearm-training classes. How and when to use a gun becomes much clearer with that. One of the biggest steps to limiting gun violence would be to mandate some form of training so that people don’t step onto their balconies and fire warning shots into the woods when they feel threatened. Barring guns or making ammunition more expensive can be argued on their pros and cons, but training people on how to use a gun and the law behind it is something everyone should be able to get behind.