The Myth of the “Warning Shot”

by Ken Hanson, Esq.

One of the first things I point out to concealed carry classes is "I don't need to make any of this stuff up." The real world we live in is so much more bizarre than anything I can make up.

My book, the Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws, is now out in a Fourth Edition. Something I have been writing about for years, in the past and current editions, is the myth of the warning shot.

Particularly with older students, there is a pervasive misconception that firing a warning shot serves some purpose. Prosecutors have a different label for a warning shot, attempted murder. Here is what I write in my current edition:

A SPECIAL NOTE ON BRANDISHING, SHOOTING TO WOUND, WARNING SHOTS AND SIMILAR HALF-MEASURES. Prosecutors have another term for warning shots: attempted felonious assault, improper discharge of a firearm etc. Shooting someone in the leg rather than center mass is similarly misguided and will not evade serious felony charges. Similarly, pulling out a gun just to “defuse the situation” is a legal non-starter. Do not be tempted to do this. If the gun comes out of the holster, the gun owner had better be justified in immediately employing it fully. There is no such thing as a warning shot or shooting to wound. This will be construed as a miss, bad marksmanship and perhaps even attempted murder.

Since Buckeye Firearms received an email inquiring about "warning shots" this week, I thought I would proof-test my writing via Google. First result confirms this conclusion: There is no such thing as a warning shot. It is always an opportunity to be charged.

Man charged after firing warning shot into ground
(note: numerous news outlets reported this story.)

Is every case of a warning shot going to be charged? No, obviously not. But you need to understand that you are simply inviting criminal charges if you engage in this behavior.

"The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws" is in a new, Fourth Edition, and can be purchased through the Buckeye Firearms Bookstore or via

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