Even when you are in your remotely located house, and somebody knocks on the door, and you bring your rifle or gun to the door, open the door and point it at the visitor, asking them to tell you why they re there, isn't that illegal in itself? Even if weapons are legal where you live and you have a license?

I would certainly never dare to point a real gun or rifle with real ammo in it (loaded or not) on somebody unless I intended to shoot them. Who knows when some complex series of physical laws (weather, wear and tear, humidity, random chance, getting startled, etc.) causes the trigger to unexpectedly be pushed, or the same mechanism to happen, causing a bullet to fly out and kill the person in front of you?

I just would feel completely uncomfortable doing that even if I knew the firearm in and out. I'd "relax" it pointing to the floor but in their general direction, so that it can be quickly pointed up to fire if they really do have bad intentions.

For example, in "Ace Ventura" (yes, it's an exaggerated comedy, but that's what I last watched where this happened), a man opens the door and keeps his shotgun pointed at Ace for a long time as they talk. It seems like such a major risk to me. Surely it cannot be legal, nor sensible?

  • 5
    Sensibility is not a question here...
    – Trish
    Feb 8, 2020 at 15:30
  • Trish is right, sensibility is off-topic here, but this is a very, very bad idea. Never point a gun at anything, or anyone, you don't intend (and have a legal reason to) shoot.
    – Someone
    Aug 29, 2022 at 19:04

2 Answers 2


It ultimately depends on the situation, but here's a general breakdown:

Many states in the United States have anti-trespassing laws that allow citizens to use deadly force in response to threat of bodily harm. These laws and statutes intersect to provide more protections for gun owners encountering trespassers, burglars, or thieves in their home. However, pointing a gun at someone can be considered assault on the idea that it is a threat that puts someone in fear of harm. Thus, the legality of pointing your gun at someone depends on numerous factors. To name a few, it depends on

  • How a state's criminal laws are defined
  • What was the trespassing incident? Was the trespasser in one's home, or on one's property
  • Whether one feared bodily harm from the trespasser

Here's a real instance of this happening in the US:

A farmer from New Hampshire was sentenced to 3 years in prison after brandishing his handgun to a trespasser. See article here.


The exact crime varies from state to state and the details of the incident, but it's illegal everywhere I know of.

To use the Washington State code as an example, pointing a gun at someone is, at a bare minimum, a violation of RCW 9.41.230 (aiming a firearm or dangerous weapon), which is a gross misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to 364 days in prison. If it's being used as more than an extremely dangerous pointer (eg. if it's used as a threat), it's a violation of RCW 9A.36.021 (second-degree assault), which is a class B felony with a sentence of up to ten years in prison. In either case, you may be able to claim self-defense, but you'd better have a good explanation of why you though the person knocking on your door was a threat.

Note that your idea of keeping the gun pointed at the floor, although physically safer, is still legally risky: the implicit threat of having a gun in your hand may meet the requirements for an assault charge.

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