This is indeed part of the gun salesman’s marketing strategy – to exploit the fantasies of young men that assault weapons will make them more manly. As the Parkland High School in Florida shooter noted just before killing 17 in 2018, “With the power of the AR, you will know who I am.” The Sutherland Springs Baptist Church shooter posted a photo of his AR-15 with the headline “She’s a bad female dog” shortly before killing 26 in Texas in 2017.
Rittenhouse should never have had an AR-15 in the first place. Federal gun control law prohibits the sale of any firearm to anyone under the age of 18, and Rittenhouse, 17, only had one because he used an illegal purchaser of straw to get around this federal law and get his assault rifle. A straw buyer acts as a proxy buyer of a gun for someone who is not legally authorized to purchase the gun, which is clearly a federal crime.
As NRA chief Wayne LaPierre once testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “We said the Strawman sales should be continued for years to come. … If someone makes a straw man sale, they must be prosecuted, absolutely. “
Rittenhouse’s friend, the gun buyer, can be prosecuted for the crime, carrying a sentence of up to 10 years.
But can Rittenhouse as the recipient of the weapon also be charged? Some might argue that federal gun laws are as porous as Wisconsin law and the answer is no. This uncertainty demonstrates the need for clarified federal law prohibiting both the straw buyer and those like Rittenhouse who appropriate guns in violation of the law. This is lesson number six.