The Newnan Times-Herald


Warning shots are only in the movies

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jan. 06, 2017 - 6:52 PM

I feel a little conflicted about the Waffle House waitress who fired a round over the head of fleeing robbers.

Technically, shooting at a fleeing felon for the sake of stopping their retreat ended in 1985 when the Supreme Court (Tennessee v. Garner) ruled that the use of deadly force to prevent escape is unreasonable, in the absence that the fleeing suspect poses a physical danger. Now if the suspects had shot or killed someone at the Waffle House, then it could be argued that they posed a clear and present danger to the general public. Warning shots are only allowed in the movies.

The crazy thing is had the waitress actually, in this situation, shot one or some of the robbers during their flight from apprehension, she and Waffle House could be civilly liable for injuries or death of the criminal suspects.

There was a case some years ago when a farmer in the Midwest had suffered several burglaries to one of his barns on the back 40 and decided to booby trap the barn door with a shotgun. Well, as luck had it, the burglar returned to commit another theft and was shot in the legs with birdshot.

The burglar retained counsel, sued the farmer for damages worth the value of the farm, and the court awarded the burglar the farm. On appeal, the judge overturned the unreasonable award which kept the farmer from losing his property.

I have handled several calls where citizens fired at perpetrators. One guy tired of getting his truck battery stolen parked it next to his bedroom window. Awaken by the sound of his truck hood opening one night, he sprang into action and emptied his .357 magnum in the direction of the thief, but only killed the truck. He was not charged. It was his truck.

Another situation involved an off-duty Atlanta Police Department officer hearing the sound of glass breaking downstairs. He grabbed his shotgun, ran down the stairs, and got a shot off, missing the burglars but killing his stove in the process. Back to the firing range for him.

Getting a weapons permit requires no training, so it's up to the responsible gun owner to become familiar with their firearm and the law pertaining to the use of lethal force. Police officers train all the time, but sometimes adrenaline overtakes normal brain functions, and even we make mistakes in the whole fraction of a second we have to make a decision.

Businesses are well within their right to prohibit guns carried on their property. Consumers are well within their rights to avoid these toxic gun-free zones.

I was actually dispatched to a call at an Atlanta school to handle a disturbance and was greeted by a school administrator who told me the campus was a gun-free zone and that we would have to leave our pistols in our patrol cars. I told her I guess that policy also made it a police-free zone. See ya! Quickest call I ever had.

I do not recommend open-carry; it freaks out the liberal townies. It's like wearing a coon-skinned cap into a group of socialites. Concealed weapons do not alarm the fearful among us and provide the tactical edge a well-trained warrior needs.

Conceal-carry weapon owners might argue the Waffle House slogan of "Good Food Fast" should be replaced with "Target Rich Environment." Smothering and covering you with humor.

W.J. Butcher