I haven’t watched the Rittenhouse trial, but one account I read said the sole surviving shooting victim made this point before the court: it was an active shooter situation. That’s important to bear in mind because it explains the reaction of the people Rittenhouse came to town specifically to menace after he shot the first victim dead. Ironically, their reaction to the active shooter in their midst may establish the basis for the self-defense claim that will likely end with the murderer walking free.
I’ve often wondered how a state with “stand your ground” self-defense laws* and open carry statutes would handle competing interests if a bystander saw a person brandishing an AR-15 and, in fear for their own life and the lives of others, preemptively killed him to neutralize the danger. We know what would happen in that scenario if it was a black dude in a Walmart/black child on a playground with a BB gun in an open carry state — the cops would shoot them dead and get away with it.
But for the sake of argument, lets take race and badges out of it. Say I’m on the second floor of an anvil emporium, and a car backfires on the street below. I look out the window and see a white man on the sidewalk below brandishing an AR-15 and assume he’s fired a shot. If I drop an anvil on his head to neutralize the threat, am I justified under the stand your ground law? I have no idea.
Josh Marshall explores the concept of conflicting open carry and permissive self-defense laws in a (paywalled) article over at TPM. He notes that Rittenhouse went to Kenosha looking for trouble. It was an act of aggression, a huge and dangerous escalation of the aggressive antics of open carry activists who parade around cities with AR-15s slung across their shoulders. It’s an escalation because Rittenhouse’s mom dropped him off in a riot zone:
Permissive self-defense laws allow a Rittenhouse to have his aggression double as self-defense. You intentionally go into a chaotic situation. You travel across state lines, highly and visibly armed, allegedly to ‘protect’ people who haven’t asked for your protection. Then you feel threatened, which seems likely to happen in a chaotic place when you show up, chest puffed out with a military style weapon. Your perception of danger entitles you to murderous violence, which you arrived locked and loaded to pursue in the first place. In Rittenhouse’s case part of his perception of threat came when people freaked out after he’d shot and killed the first person. And of course only other people get hurt or killed because you’ve got the over-the-top firepower and they don’t.
Marshall says the confluence of permissive self-defense laws and open carry statutes creates a “murder safari” situation where “[t]he inherent aggression and menace of carrying around high caliber weapons, which we’re told is only a problem for squeamish libs, becomes a path for the person carrying the fire arm to themselves feel threatened and decide they need to use the gun.”
Yep. And when Rittenhouse gets away with it, it may inspire similar psychos to go on “murder safaris” of their own. Even if they have to take an Uber because their mom won’t drive them to the riot.
*Not meant to imply Wisconsin has a SYG statute. I have no idea how the Badger State regulates self defense.