The fact that the U.S. is so used to having shooting incidents that only a pandemic can guarantee public safety is truly sad.
But, not even a pandemic could put an end to this gun violence for long. In late August seventeen-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse fired shots against unarmed protesters in Kenosha during a Black Lives Matter protest. After the shooting, Rittenhouse went home and slept, walking right past Kenosha police.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kentucky, said he believes Rittenhouse showed “incredible constraint” given the situation.
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Rittenhouse and those who defend him claim he had the right to self-defense and that shooting protesters is what he did to defend himself.
Wisconsin State Law does recognize the Castle Doctrine, which allows a person to use force to protect the individual’s home, vehicle and business, along with allowing a person to use force that may cause harm or death if the person is threatened with imminent death. But, this self-defense clause is exempted if “the actor was engaged in a criminal activity or was using his or her dwelling, motor vehicle or place of business to further a criminal activity at the time.”
In the video, of the shooting it was unclear who fired the first shot in the parking lot, but it was clear Rittenhouse fired shots at protesters in the street. At the time of the shooting, he wasn’t anywhere near his home or vehicle, and he did not own a business. This breaks any justification for the use of force within the parameters of the Castle Doctrine. The Wisconsin Code grants the use of force if and only if the use of force is not used to further criminal activity.
Rittenhouse was 17 years old, and the legal open carry age in Wisconsin is 18. The firing of the rifle was to further illegal carrying in the State of Wisconsin. Therefore, Rittenhouse is exempted from using self-defense as an excuse.
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Furthermore, based on WS 939.41 2(a) of the Wisconsin State Statutes, “a person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and does thereby provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defense against such attack.” Under WS 939.48 2(c), “a person who provokes an attack, whether by lawful or unlawful conduct, with intent to use such an attack as an excuse to cause death or great bodily harm to his or her assailant is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defense.”
These two sections clearly illustrate that Rittenhouse, without a doubt, engaged in misconduct due to illegal carrying and by provoking the protestors, so he cannot justify his killing with self-defense.
Given the Rittenhouse incident, one may ask what it means to defend oneself during protests. It means one may not break the law and one may only defend themselves within the territories of homes, vehicles and businesses or properties.
Proper self-defense also indicates that one cannot provoke the attack and claim self-defense as an excuse for the use of force that may cause harm or death of the attackers. The language written in WS 949.48 is quite clear, and in order to avoid further incidents, the Wisconsin government should educate the public on proper self-defense, especially for business owners.
Despite Wisconsin allowing open carry and concealed carry, showing up at protests with weapons is absolutely provocative. Carrying a weapon to a protest does not advocate for peaceful protests, but rather, indicates a desire for violence and social unrest.
Each individual can exercise their Second Amendment right but it has to be within legal boundaries. The Rittenhouse incident demonstrates that abusing that right should exempt a person from having self-defense privileges.
This incident also calls for stricter gun control and gun violence prevention policies from both the state government and the police department during protests and demonstrations.
Hopefully, this incident will be the last.
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.