The Friday acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager on trial for homicide after shooting three men in August 2020 in Kenosha, Wis., has aroused fears that vigilantism may become the new normal for political protests. Rittenhouse had driven to Kenosha to join armed citizens to protect private property from protesters in the aftermath of the Aug. 23, 2020, police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. In the chaos that prevailed, Rittenhouse shot and killed two protesters and wounded a third. He claimed self-defense : he said he feared that he would be disarmed and killed with his own military-style semiautomatic rifle. The jury agreed with him. Many scholars , gun control groups and pundits are concerned that America will now see more gun violence in political events — especially racial justice protests like the one in Kenosha. What do Americans think about the presence of armed civilians at protests? Would people attend a protest if they knew that others were armed — and would they, themselves, bring a firearm to a protest? Which social groups are more likely to approve of armed civilians in protests and which would feel intimidated by their presence and less likely to attend? My research this year suggests deep divides across party and gender lines on these important questions. I conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,000 White and 500 Black Americans earlier this year, collecting data via the survey company YouGov. Among other questions, the survey asked how appropriate is it for […]
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