Rittenhouse verdict comes amid gun-laden landscape

Updated 12 minutes ago

The upcoming verdict in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse for shooting three men during unrest in the streets of Wisconsin comes amid deep political divisions and increased access to guns in the United States – factors which, according to some, could lead to more dangerous encounters.

The 18-year-old said he shot in self-defense, killing two men and injuring a third, after being attacked during a night of racial injustice protests in Kenosha in the summer of 2020. But Prosecutors say Rittenhouse set the death chain of events in motion by traveling from his home in neighboring Illinois and arming himself with an AR-type semi-automatic rifle.

While legal experts have said the details give Rittenhouse a strong case for self-defense, some are concerned about the broader signal an acquittal could send. The jury that heard the case deliberated for a whole day on Tuesday without reaching a decision; they come back wednesday.

“It’s easy to see how an acquittal could send the message that there is no consequence in showing up armed where you want to, and then when the going gets tough you pull the trigger and get away with it,” said Nick Suplina, senior vice president of law and policy at Everytown for gun safety.

The case comes at a time when many other states are expanding their self-defense laws and relaxing licensing requirements for carrying firearms in public. The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, appears poised to repeal a tougher gun licensing law in New York City. The sales of firearms and gun violence have separately increased.

Those on the other side of the gun debate argue that armed confrontations will remain rare and point to political divisions rather than the guns themselves. “We’ve seen people express things publicly at events that are, quite frankly, off the charts these days,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Yet powerful weapons have become more widely available in much of the United States in recent years, a very different situation from the world where the American legal concept of self-defense originated hundreds of years ago, Sam said. Buell, law professor at Duke. University. The basic idea is that people can use lethal force when their life is threatened, but not if they are the aggressor. The question of who started a fight might have been easier to resolve in earlier times, but not anymore.

“This is kind of the very issue the parties seem to be grappling with in this lawsuit,” Buell said. “Obviously, the law does not have the answer. ”

The major change in US self-defense law in recent years, he said, has been the advent of “stand up to your feet” laws, which remove the requirement to withdraw from clashes before they do. use deadly force.

Although they came under scrutiny after high-profile gun deaths like that of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, they are now in effect in more than half of the US states. . Wisconsin doesn’t have them, but three other states have adopted them this year – Ohio, Arkansas and North Dakota, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Also this year, six more states relaxed the requirements for carrying weapons in public by removing the requirement to obtain a license, the highest number from a year, said Allison Anderman, senior counsel for the group.

“In some states, it appears lawmakers are using the events of 2020 to expand people’s ability to threaten others in public with a gun and kill them and evade justice,” she said. .

Others, like Gottlieb, argue that guns may be needed for protection in places like protests where emotions are high and violence is possible.

Whatever the verdict in the Rittenhouse case, Buell cautions against reading too much from a legal perspective.

“I think it’s a big mistake for people to seek a jury verdict in a single criminal case as a way to resolve these issues in a society,” he said. “He can’t take that weight. No case can support this weight.


This story has been updated to correct the error that prosecutors said Rittenhouse traveled from his home in Illinois to Wisconsin with an AR-style semi-automatic rifle. Rittenhouse said he collected the gun from his friend’s stepfather’s home in Wisconsin.


Find full coverage of Rittenhouse’s essay by AP: https://apnews.com/hub/kyle-rittenhouse

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