In an interview with a parenting magazine, Vice President Joe Biden described the home defense advice he gave his wife, Jill Biden. This advice, if followed, constitutes a felony in almost every state.

Here are the home defense tips that Vice President Biden gave his wife, and that he would like to see you emulate:

Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Americans don’t need semi-automatic weapons to protect their homes because a couple of blasts from a shotgun will scare off intruders.

“Buy a shotgun, buy a shotgun,” the vice president encouraged those worried about defending themselves. He was speaking in an online video as part of a Facebook town hall hosted by Parents Magazine on the administration’s strategy for reducing gun violence, which he has led at the direction of President Barack Obama.

Biden said he keeps two shotguns and shells locked up at home and he’s told his wife, Jill, to use them if she needs protection. He presumably was speaking about before he became vice president, a position that gives the couple full-time Secret Service protection.

“I said, `Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony … take that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house,”‘ Biden said. “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.”

We’ll set aside Biden’s uninformed views on the defensive utility of semi-automatic firearms (the ubiquitous choice of self defense firearms for every local, state, and federal law enforcement agency in the United States) for a moment, and will focus on the Vice President’s choice of firearm and tactics.

Biden said he keeps two shotguns and shells locked up at home and he’s told his wife, Jill, to use them if she needs protection…

“Jill, if there’s ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony … take that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house.”

Biden doesn’t define what constitutes a “problem” to him, but the laws of each state, while they vary from one to another, generally only allow the use of a firearm to defend human life. Further, the threat must satisfy a test where a reasonable person would find the threat to be both life-threatening and immediate.

  1. person defending themselves must be a “reasonable person”
  2. the threat has to be life-threatening
  3. the threat has to be immediate

The “reasonable person” standard.

If you have a substance abuse problem, or are in an altered state due to chemical use or psychological or physiological  problems, you may not legally use a weapon depending upon state law, even if you perceive a threat to be life-threatening and immediate. If you are paranoid, hear voices, or think that the public works employee coming to check your meter is an alien coming to steal your soul, this is not a legal defensive gun use.

The threat must constitute a lethal threat.

There is so much nuance and so many variables to what constitutes “life threatening” that it is simply impossible to define each and every instance of what may constitute a lethal threat. Relative size, skill, age, physical abilities, numbers (if there is more than one attacker), aggression, and weapon are just some of the possible variables that might constitute what a reasonable person might consider a life-threatening circumstance.

The threat must be immediate.

There are time-based, obstacle/distance-based, and behavior-based constraints to what constitutes an immediate threat. A person who constitutes a threat cannot be fired upon before they constitute a threat nor after they stop being a threat. You cannot generally fire upon someone who is retreating.

You may not fire upon someone if they don’t have a reasonable chance of carrying out their intent because of natural or man-made obstructions in their path that would prevent them from carrying out their assault, or if they were too far away to pose an immediate threat. A person armed with a club or a knife may be a lethal threat if face-to-face or across a short stretch of open ground, but you cannot easily justify shooting them from one rooftop to another, across a canal, etc. If that same person has a ranged weapon such as a firearm, however, the threat is immediate. Nor may you shoot someone for merely possessing an object that might be used as a weapon, if they are not using it in a threatening manner.

All three of these tests must be present to legally justify deploying a firearm in self defense.