Colonel Kasteen called the meeting to order. Then she called it to order again. Major Broklaw fired his bolt pistol into the ceiling, and the meeting came to order.
An argument has broken out (probably in the local saloon), and it might be about to get violent. Voices rise to an unintelligible clamor, and everyone is losing their head. Suddenly a gunshot rings out and everyone is silenced. The crowd stops and looks at the shooter holding the gun up towards the ceiling, with smoke rising from the barrel of his/her gun, who will then resolve the situation. This is for when a Big "SHUT UP!" just won't cut it. Alternatively, this could be used to frighten and disperse a hostile crowd, especially if they are unarmed or have never heard a gun before.
A show of magical power might be used in the same way in certain genres.
Do Not Try This at Home unless there is imminent danger of death or serious injury for myriad reasons:
- Discharging a weapon indoors (or underground) can permanently damage your or other people's hearing if no protection is worn.
- Depending on what is above you, you could hit something dangerous such as a gas line. If the roof is something very substantial, the bullet could ricochet and hit someone including yourself.
- If there are floors above you indoors, the bullet could injure or kill someone above you.
- If the bullet exits the roof or you do this outside, the bullet could injure or kill someone elsewhere when it comes back down.
- Rather than calm anyone down, firing a gun in the middle of a tense situation will in all likelihood make things worse.
- Generally speaking, legally you are only allowed to discharge a firearm directly at an imminent deadly threat to you or someone else. Using a firearm as a crowd control device is likely to result in serious legal consequences. In many jurisdictions a "warning shot" is explicitly singled out as being illegal with harsh penalties because of the above dangers.
- On her first call in Copperhead Clara tries one to break up a fistfight. It doesn't work and pulls in more combatants instead.
- A Courier For Kivotos: Overwhelmed by a rowdy press conference, Courier Six introduces himself to Kivotos by firing his pistol in the air to catch their attention.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager Parody Fic The Killer Dame, Captain Janeway proves she has what it takes to lead La Résistance by shooting a priceless bottle of Mouton Rothschild, to the dismay of the assembled Frenchmen.
- Old West: Used several times. The first time happens when Sheriff Rango returns to his town with Rattlesnake Jake. The townsfolk are understandably terrified, so to get their attention, Rango fires a shot in the air. The second time happens later when the frantic townsfolk rush to Rango's office in order to inform him that there's no longer water flowing into their lake. The trick works again, though at the same time Rango makes a hole in his ceiling.
- Peace Forged in Fire: Part two opens with Praetor Velal of the Romulan Star Empire about to storm out of a peace negotiation with the Romulan Republic after an attack on Imperial forces by Tal Shiar pretending to be Republic ships. Lieutenant Commander Jaleh Khoroushi, the moderator, responds by blowing up a light fixture with her phaser and screaming at him to sit down long enough for her to look at the evidence.
- Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: A variation. When Ash and Co. arrive at the Cinnabar Battle Club, there's a huge ruckus going on between a bunch of challengers coming to battle Blaine. Blaine's granddaughter Alish yells out a Big "SHUT UP!" when an Overheat goes off and everyone shuts up (though it's unclear whether it was Alish herself or her Flareon who fired it).
- Return to Krocodile Isle: K. Rool delivers this twice when addressing Klump. One is directed into the ceiling to grab his attention and tell him he's screwed up yet again. The second is a grazing shot with the clear message of get out now.
- Star Wars Vs Warhammer 40 K: When the Imperial freighter Atlas of Steel self-destructs in Episode 4, it creates a bright explosion that quickly spreads out towards the surrounding Republic fleet. Spikes, the clone captain of a Venator in this fleet, orders his ship to go into full reverse to Outrun the Fireball. His bridge crew is too distracted gawking at the explosion, so he fires his blaster pistol into the floor to get their attention and repeats his orders, jolting them back into action.
- The Curse of the Were-Rabbit: Lord Victor Quartermaine wishes to announce to the vegetable festival attendees that he intends to kill the were-rabbit, and that he has two remaining of his three golden bullets (the creature's only weakness). But everyone is too busy panicking to listen to him, so he fires into the air to get their attention. And then he facepalms, as he realizes he just wasted one of the golden bullets that he already loaded into the gun.
- In Wreck-It Ralph, Sgt. Calhoun fires her gun in the air to make the Laffy Taffy vines stop making romantic music and hearts around her and Felix.
- 5 Card Stud: When no one notices his entrance to the saloon, Badass Preacher Johnathan Rudd fires several shots into the floor to get their attention and invite them to church.
- In '71, one of the soldiers shoots into the air when the angry mob becomes violent. Somewhat subverted in that it only causes the situation to escalate.
- In Anne of the Indies, Blackbeard silences a noisy tavern full of pirates by firing a pair of pistols into the ceiling.
- In the French film Aux Yeux Du Monde, the villain hijacks a school bus at gunpoint. When the children panic loudly, he fires his gun into the roof of the bus, which also serves as proof that the gun is real. It does not stop the children shrieking.
- Batman Forever: When they first meet, the Riddler spends several seconds praising Two-Face and his lair before getting into his proposed Villain Team-Up. Eventually, Two-Face fires a shot into the air next to his ear to get him to shut up and get to the point already.
- In Black Hawk Down, Mike Durant is saved from a Somali mob by Aidid's Dragon when he fires his AK into the air to stop them from (further) savaging him, and then announces that Aidid has claimed Durant as his prisoner, who, as such, is not to come to further harm. The crowd backs off.
- In Blazing Saddles, Taggart shoots into the air twice to stop Lyle and the other white railroad workers when they got carried away, singing "Camptown Ladies".
- In Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Lotus brings a halt to the Auction of Evil by firing a shot into the ceiling and demanding that anyone not directly involved leave immediately. After Crown of Thorns knocks out Katherine, everyone departs hurriedly, leaving only Dragon and his gang.
- Syd in Children of Men does this in order to shut up the Gypsy lady. It works.
- Death on the Nile (2022). Hercule Poirot commences the Summation Gathering by firing a .45 calibre pistol (used in one of the murders) in the air to show that he's stopped playing games.
- Dr. Pandanski, when trying to break up a fight between Zero and Zigzag in Holes, angrily does this with a rifle pointed skyward, after repeatedly failing to use words to break them up.
- Idiocracy features President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho firing an M249 SAW machine gun in the air during the middle of an Emergency Presidential Address to shut up his critics.
- In the Black Comedy In China They Eat Dogs Arvid fires his gun to break up an argument between the other gang members. The ricochet kills one of them.
- Into the Grizzly Maze: When Rowan and Beckett start brawling in the campsite, Kaley gets them to stop by firing a rifle into the air.
- In Johnny Reno, Reno fires a shot into the air to silence the mob who have gathered outside the sheriff's office to lynch Joe Conners.
- In The Mask, the police are enthralled by the title character into a Spontaneous Choreography. It's stopped as Kellaway arrives, grabs the gun from a cop and fires it in the air.
- Spoofed (what else?) in Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult when Rocco takes the Oscars hostage, by suddenly showing up on stage and shooting his gun into the air.
Rocco: Quiet! And nobody gets hurt!
[an unfortunate victim from a higher platform suddenly falls down]
Rocco: [beat] ... starting now!
- Never Grow Old: Following the first murder, The Sheriff silences the noisy saloon by firing a shot into the ceiling.
- In A Night to Remember, the First Officer fires his gun in the air several times to quieten panicking passengers being loaded into lifeboats. It works for a few seconds.
- In The Paper, Martha, Carmen, Wilder, Phil, and Janet are all in Henry's office, trying to talk at Henry about various problems. McDougal calmly bulls his way through the throng with two bundles of newspapers and fires a shot into them. After everyone shuts up:
McDougal: Let... Marty... talk... to... her husband. Please.
- Quick Change employs this not to disrupt an argument, but to bring attention to the shooter: given no one is paying attention to the armed clown saying "this is a robbery", once he fires in the air everyone panics and believes him.
- Happens frequently through the Pirates of the Caribbean films, especially the Brethren Court meeting in At World's End, as pirates are both extremely contentious and heavily armed.
- Parodied in Police Academy. During the riot, Mahoney, Jones, and Martin take refuge in Lassard's police car. The rioters gang up on the car and try to get at them and Lassard warns them to back away over the PA system. His words go unheeded. Jones asks for the microphone and makes machine gun noises over the PA system. Everybody runs.
- In Reform School Girls, Warden Sutter quells the riot in the girls' dorm by firing a shotgun into the ceiling.
- In Road House (1989), Brad Wesley calls off his henchmen in a bar fight by firing a gun into the ceiling.
- Scavenger Hunt (1979): When the teams dissolve into a noisy argument at the end of the hunt, Bernstein takes a gun off one of the police officers and fires it into the air to get silence.
- Screamers. On discovering the blood-splattered command post, one of the more twitchy NEB soldiers starts to Freak Out and smash things up with his gun. Commander Hendrickson fires a shot in the air, startling the NEB so he slips in the blood and falls to the ground. Hendrickson then follows this up by ordering his own soldier to shoot the NEB guy if "he so much as makes a sound or farts."
- Snow Dogs: When George tries to read Lucy Watkins' last will and testament, nobody at the bar they're in listens until he fires his rifle into the ceiling. At which point Barb the owner yells at him to stop doing that because she just patched up the last hole.
- In Sorority Row, Mrs. Crenshaw breaks up a second Cat Fight between Jessica and Maggie before it can start by firing a shotgun into the ceiling.
- Stand by Me: At the climax of the film, Gordie breaks up an argument by firing a handgun into the air.
- In They Might Be Giants, Watson quells an incipient brawl in Times Square by firing a gun into the air. This gives her and Justin time to get into a taxi and get away.
- In Tom and Huck, Judge Thatcher fires a shotgun in the air in order to get the townspeople to be quiet when they tried to hang Muff Potter.
- Tropic Thunder: Tugg does this with his machine gun when everybody argues about whether they're lost.
Tugg: Chill! Now, let's get those Viet Congs.Chino: It’s "Vietcong", there’s no 's', it’s already plural. You wouldn’t say "Chineses".
- Truth or Dare (2012): When the five hostages start arguing about who could have sent the postcard, Justin shuts them up by firing his revolver into the air.
- In Tumbleweed, Sheriff Murchoree (temporarily) quells an incipient riot by firing a shot over the heads of the instigators.
- In Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, the gambling woman quells the Bar Brawl at Tortuga's by firing Two Shots from Behind the Bar into the ceiling, and then telling Yellow Hair and Pecos that they should get before they start trouble.
- The Asterisk War: In Volume 9, St. Gallardworth Student Council Secretary Percival Gardner fires her pistol Lux into the air to break up an argument between two of the other council members.
- In the BattleTech Expanded Universe novel "Close Quarters," Lady K has to do this with a laser pistol to interrupt a six-way argument breaking out over Colonel Camacho's fitness to command. Her only observation is that she's glad for reinforced walls, as having to apologize for someone for accidentally shooting them in the ass is a faux pas she'd rather not deal with.
- The minutes of a war council meeting in Ciaphas Cain: Caves of Ice include a line about how some of the participants weren't paying attention to Col. Kasteen calling the meeting to order. Not until Maj. Broklaw fired his bolter into the ceiling, anyway. Given a Brick Joke later when Cain walks in and wonders why there are so many holes in the ceiling. And a bit later when another meeting is called, Cain is surprised that Broklaw only has to clear his throat to quiet the room.
- In the Michael Connelly book A Darkness More Than Night, the trial judge, Judge "Shootin'" Houghton, is said to have done this during a previous trial when several gang members' families began to get unruly in the courtroom following a guilty verdict. He won't let the maintenance crews patch the bullet hole in the ceiling, either. Rumor has it that he still carries his gun under his robes from time to time, and at one point Harry Bosch suspects that he went to get it during a recess in the trial when things are starting to get heated.
- Clarke stops a flurry of arguments about what to do now that members of the camp are getting sick really quickly with a gunshot in the air on The 100.
- In Alien Nation, Sikes temporarily stops a potential neighborhood riot triggered by a newcomer family moving into the area by firing a few shots into the air to grab everyone's attention before giving the crowd a "Reason You Suck" Speech and shaming them into dispersing.
- In Andromeda's season 5 episode "What Will Be Was Not" a fight breaks out at Seamus Harper's bar, which he ends by firing a large gun into the ceiling. Followed by that section of the ceiling landing on his head and everyone laughing at him.
- Angel. A lethal version occurs in "That Old Gang of Mine". Gunn's former demon-killing gang has taken over the demon bar Caritas. They point out that one of the demons there Eats Babies, so why isn't Gunn killing it? When the demon starts threatening to eat the children of the man holding him at gunpoint, at the same time as Gio is breaking down Gunn over his sister's death, Gunn screams, "I told you to shut (turns his shotgun from Gio and blasts demon) up!"
- Barbary Coast: In the pilot movie, Lt. Tully quells a Bar Brawl in the Golden Gate by firing a shot into the ceiling.
- The Barrier: The President's guards are shown shooting in the air in the hope of driving the crowd marching away from the President's residence.
- A dramedic example appears in the first episode of Boston Public, in which Harry Senate (one of the teachers of the school) pulls out a handgun and blasts a hole in the wall to shut up his rowdy classroom. The PTA gets more than a little upset about this and Harry almost gets fired as a result.
- Colonel March of Scotland Yard: In "The Second Mona Lisa", March breaks up a fight between the two bodyguards over the paintings by taking Lawson's gun off him and firing two shots into the ceiling.
- Danger 5. The "Sit Down Gun" used by Colonel Chestbridge during his Mission Briefings.
- In Deadwood, Al Swearengen does this to the crowd at the Gem Saloon while they're agitated over the news that a family leaving the camp was found dead.
- The F.B.I.: In "The Forest of the Night", the sheriff of Stanton temporarily subdues a group of rioters attempting to lynch two members of a religious community by firing a few shots over their heads. This cows them long enough for their victims to escape into the sheriff station.
- Hitler: The Rise of Evil. Adolf Hitler starts his Munich putsch by entering a beer hall being used by a coalition of rival right-wing political parties and firing his pistol into the air. Anyone who knows history knows that it didn't end well for him or his party that night.
- In Legends of Tomorrow, at the start of "The Magnificent Eight", the Legends cause a fight to break out in the local saloon. Jonah Hex is the one who stops it by firing a gunshot.
- In one episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Colonel Potter are pinned down by a squad of North Korean soldiers, with only a pistol between the two of them (understandable, given that they're Army doctors, not infantrymen). Unfortunately, the one holding the pistol is Hawkeye, who refuses to shoot back or even hand the pistol to Potter. Potter gives Hawkeye an earful for his stubbornness, but manages to talk him into firing a single shot—which Hawkeye does, straight into the air instead of at the soldiers. Thankfully, this trope is played straight as the single report scares the soldiers off, which is what Potter was aiming for anyways.
- Star Trek:
- In the early Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "A Man Alone", a mob gathers outside Odo's office after the changeling is implicated in a murder. One of the Starfleet security officers fires his phaser into the air a couple of times to get their attention.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Night Terrors", the Enterprise's bartender, Guinan, is able to prevent a brawl from breaking out by firing the extremely large and probably illegal energy weapon she keeps under the bar into the overhead, causing a small explosion and making everyone stare at her in shock.
Guinnan: That was setting One. Anybody want to see setting Number Two?
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Living Witness", Voyager has been given a Historical Villain Upgrade by an alien historian 700 years in the future, portraying them as squabbling thugs responsible for genocide. Annoyed when a ready-room meeting breaks down into a fistfight, Evil Janeway pulls out a phaser and shoots an innocent computer screen to make them stop.
- In Batman: Arkham City, Two-Face fires one of his guns to "bring the court to order" when he puts Catwoman on trial.
- During Huey Emmerich's trial in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, he's declared guilty of various wrongdoings against Diamond Dogs, causing the crowd of soldiers in attendance to yell for him to be executed. As the camera focuses in on him, a shot rings out, but a moment later it's revealed that it was from Ocelot firing his revolver into the ceiling to silence the unruly crowd.
- Pico's School features a scene where the player character can attempt to talk some sense into Cyclops, a Goth-Punk who is blocking the school hallway. Should you poke holes in his motives or taunt him, he will shut you up by shooting you (and you will take a sliver of health for it). The only way to counteract this is to interrupt the scene entirely with your own gun, scaring him into submission.
- In Red Dead Redemption II, you can point your gun upwards and fire as a way to intimidate people.
- In The Walking Dead video game, after Carley gives Lily a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for making baseless accusations towards members of the group while trying to find out who betrayed them to the local bandits, they're interrupted by Kenny killing a nearby walker, leading to Lily pulling out her gun while everyone is distracted and then promptly shooting Carley in the face.
- During Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy, in the middle of a heated argument between Wash and Tucker, with the Reds and Caboose watching on, right as they are about to erupt in a brawl, a gunshot rings out, along with Tex's leitmotif, which means a whole load of ass-kicking is about to— wait, never mind, it's just Donut.
- In the episode "Vision Quest", Archer fires his gun into the ceiling of the elevator when the others panic and start fighting. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome ensues due to the loud noise and confined space.
- It was done in another episode by Calderon, the dictator of San Marcos, who quiets the ISIS gang with numerous gunshots from his pistol; he then runs out of ammo, at which point a soldier hands him another gun, which he fires once.
- The lead convict from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Powerpuff Bluff" does this at the beginning of the episode when he and his two fellow convicts rob a bank, only to find the girls were waiting for them.
- Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Envoys", Mariner fires a phaser into the ceiling to pause a Bar Brawl Boimler has been caught up in, then offers a free round of drinks to get everyone to calm down.
- Star Wars Resistance: Poe Dameron fires a shot from his blaster in the air to scare off some Kowakian monkey-lizards. A lizard falls from the ceiling, dead.
- This Is America, Charlie Brown: In "The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad", one of the saloon patrons does this when harmonica player Spike gets carried away with his dancing.
- Ugly Americans: In the second episode, to get the others' attention, Mark Lilly fires a gun that Leonard gave him into the air (killing a manbird in the process). He follows this up with, "Sorry. I've been waiting to do that all day."