As the country awaits a United States Supreme Court ruling in a new york state case who can create a federal constitutional right to bear arms outside the home, what lessons can the nation learn from the recent acquittal in Wisconsin of Kyle Rittenhouse and the convictions for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia?
The first obvious lesson is that no one would have died, maimed or imprisoned if the men in these cases had not owned guns or had simply left their guns at home. The man mutilated by Rittenhouse learned that his self-proclaimed constant weapon carrying not only did not protect him or the others, but simply added him to the casualties when he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse.
While oral argument in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen On November 3, 2021, a number of conservative Supreme Court justices seemed unaware of a second lesson: Best empirical evidence shows carrying guns outside the home dramatically increases risk for the public. As my own research and 14 academic papers in the past four years alone have shown that gun carrying restrictions in states like New York and California have reduction of violent crime. Extend the Second Amendment beyond its current scope of the right to own a firearm in the home would likely reverse this progress.
Travis McMichael is one of three white men found guilty of pursuing and shooting Arbery, an unarmed black man. McMichael testified at trial that there had been a lot of crime in his neighborhood and that he had had a Smith & Wesson pistol stolen from his truck in front of his house. Lesson Three: This gun and other weapons stolen from outside the home heavily arms American criminals – for the rate of approximately 100,000 firearms per year. Even before McMichael murdered Arbery, he was already indirectly contributing to violent crime.
The fourth lesson concerns the deceptive, or at best opaque, feature of Wisconsin law that even the judge in the Rittenhouse case said was “confusing. ” The Statutory states: “Anyone under the age of 18 who possesses or is armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a class A offense”, where “dangerous weapon” includes “any firearm, loaded or unloaded”.
While this law would prevent a person of Rittenhouse’s age from carrying a handgun, stun gun, or brass knuckles, it buried cross-references that end up exempting all long guns, including the AR. -15 from Rittenhouse.
Whether due to poor legislative drafting or under the influence of lobbying gun rights groups in Wisconsin is unclear, but if the intention of the law was to protect the public from dangerous weapons, then that public interest was undermined by an obscure statutory regime that prohibited minors from having dangerous weapons but non-lethal while still allowing them to walk the city streets with an AR-15.
The fifth lesson is that if the the federal ban on assault weapons remained in place instead of being lapsed in 2004, the Rittenhouse tragedy might not have happened. The AR-15 once again proved attractive to someone who shouldn’t have had the weapon, with Rittenhouse testifying that he was attracted to the weapon because it “looked cool. “This is indeed part of the marketing strategy of the gun dealers – exploiting the fantasies of young men that assault weapons make them more manly. As the Parkland High School in Florida gunman noted just before killing 17 in 2018, “With the power of 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 dirty bitch“shortly before killing 26 in Texas in 2017.
Rittenhouse should never have had an AR-15 in the first place. Federal Firearms Control Act banned the sale of any firearm to anyone under the age of 18, and Rittenhouse, 17, only had one because he used an illegal straw buyer to circumvent this federal law to obtain 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 has already testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee: “We said that the sales of straw men should be continued for years. … 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 appropriating firearms in violation of the law.. This is lesson number six.
Getting a federal felony conviction from Rittenhouse would prevent him from owning the AR-15 which the pressure group Gun Owners of America planned to send him to celebrate his acquittal from Wisconsin.
The final lesson in how guns outside the home generate unusual damage was highlighted by the events of January 6, 2021, in which the disaster was averted because Washington’s gun laws have prevented hundreds from carrying handguns and assault weapons during the capture of the United States Capitol.
As the Supreme Court justices consider the New York case, I would say they should be careful and ignore the need for restraint that is articulated in the text of the Second Amendment referring to a well-regulated militia. And I think they would be wise to recognize the long history and tradition of restricting the carrying of weapons outside the home to promote citizen safety and, indeed, health and possibly existence. of our democracy.