Vice President Joe Biden's gun advice is being used as a defense by Jeffery Barton, a 52-year-old Vancouver, Wash., man charged with illegal aiming or discharging a firearm.
Barton was arrested Monday for allegedly shooting a shotgun in the air to chase people he considered potential car thieves off his property.
"I did what Joe Biden told me to do," Barton told KOIN-TV outside court Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty. "I went outside and fired my shotgun in the air."
On February 19 Biden – then promoting a package of gun control proposals that included a ban on assault-style rifles – said he had advised his wife, "if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here, walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house."
At the time, two Delaware attorneys, including a former Delaware deputy attorney general, told U.S. News the advice could result in felony and misdemeanor charges, including aggravated menacing, reckless endangering in the first degree, and charges for shooting too close to roads and homes. The Bidens' Wilmington, Del., home is around 100 feet from their nearest neighbor's house.
As in Delaware, Washington state authorities say imminent fear of death is required to use deadly force.
Barton's case is at least the second instance of someone facing criminal charges for using a gun in a manner recommended by the vice president.
In an interview published February 25 by Field & Stream magazine, Biden said, "[if] you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door."
That advice, too, could land you in handcuffs.
Trevor Snowden of Virginia Beach, Va., was charged Feb. 25 with reckless handling of a firearm for shooting a shotgun through his bedroom door at alleged intruders days earlier.
Snowden, 22 at the time, said two armed men leaned into his bedroom window and ordered him to close his bedroom door, WAVY-TV reported. Instead, he stepped outside the bedroom, closed the door and fired his shotgun through it at the alleged intruders. No one was injured.
Snowden's next court appearance for the charge is August 14, according to information posted on Virginia's searchable court database. It's unclear if he is using Biden's tip in his defense. Unlike Barton's case, Snowden's alleged offense occurred before the vice president's tip was publicized.
U.S. News reached out to Biden's office for comment on Barton's case, but did not immediately receive a response.
Biden, a licensed attorney in Delaware, was appointed by President Barack Obama in December to lead a task force in crafting new gun-control rules after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. His apparent ignorance of existing gun laws was highlighted in ads by the National Rifle Association during congressional debate on the failed package of gun-control reforms.