Hero or vigilant? The Rittenhouse judgment reignites the polarized U.S. gun controversy by Reuters


Reuters. Outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin, Wisconsin, USA, on November 19, 2021, people are waiting for the verdict in the Kyle Reitenhaus trial. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid


By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – Kyle Reitenhaus on Friday opened another front in America’s protracted fight for gun rights over murder: Is it acceptable for a teenager to bring an assault-style rifle in protest?

Conservatives hailed Rittenhaus as a hero for exercising his right to self-defense when he fatally shot two protesters and wounded a third who he said attacked him last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in protest of a racial slur.

Gun control lawyers warn the jury’s verdict could trigger a new wave of armed alert, with Rittenhouse – armed with an AR-15-style rifle – traveling from his Illinois home to Kenosha in August 2020 when protests erupted after a black man was shot by police. Was done. , Jacob Blake.

Guns have long been a powerful political issue in the United States, where approved laws have led to the highest rates of ownership of civilian firearms in the world. Mass shootings, which are much rarer in other rich countries, have plagued the country for decades.

Rittenhaus’s decision, at the age of 17, to wander the streets of Kenosha with weapons in the name of protecting personal property from rioters struck a particular nerve about how gun rights should be extended.

“The tragic events of that August night show that a 17-year-old man armed with an AR-15 does not protect anyone,” Giffords, a top official with the Gun Protection Group, said in a statement. “Today’s verdict sends a disturbing message that will encourage more vigilant violence and killings.”

Gun rights groups and Rittenhouse supporters have hailed the result as a major victory.

Within minutes of the verdict, the National Rifle Association posted on Twitter (NYSE 🙂 the language of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution: “A well-regulated militia, necessary for the security of a free state, to protect the rights of the people and to carry arms, will not be violated.”

Brandon Lesco, who was standing outside the Kenosha Courthouse shouting “Free Kyle!” Mark said the verdict was fair.

“Someone needs to be there to protect American cities that people are trying to burn. I respect that he was there, I respect that he carried a weapon, he used it properly, he used it legally. Judges agree. “Lesko said.

The trial judge earlier this week dismissed a misdemeanor charge against Rittenhaus for illegally possessing the rifle he used during the shooting, citing ambiguity of law.

‘Unacceptable Message’

Liberals condemned Rittenhouse’s acquittal as further evidence of a racially biased criminal justice system. Rittenhouse is as white as the ones he shot.

“A young white man can travel across the state line, armed with an assault rifle, and engage in armed conflict resulting in multiple deaths without facing criminal accountability, a well-known consequence in a country where systemic racism continues to rot.” Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement.

Some legal experts were careful to draw a distinction between the specific information in Rittenhaus’ case and the broader message it could send.

According to Jenin Gesk, a former Wisconsin Supreme Court judge, prosecutors had a high barrier to convincing judges that Rittenhaus did not have a reasonable fear for his life when he was fired. Under state law, he was legally allowed to carry a weapon openly.

But he told Gass that he was concerned the trial would teach the wrong lesson: “When you’re protesting or counter-protesting, it’s best to carry a loaded weapon to ‘protect yourself.’ ? “

That sentiment was echoed by Karen Bloom and John Huber, Anthony Huber’s parents, one of the victims at the hands of Rittenhaus.

“It sends an unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any city, incite violence and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people on the street,” they said in a statement.

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