Hero or vigilante? Rittenhouse verdict reignites polarized U.S. gun debate

Hero or vigilante? Rittenhouse verdict reignites polarized U.S. gun debate

By Joseph Ax (Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal on murder charges on Friday opened yet another front in America’s longstanding fight over gun rights: Is it acceptable for a teenager to bring an assault-style rifle to a protest? Conservatives hailed Rittenhouse as a hero for exercising his right to self-defense when he fatally shot two demonstrators and wounded a third who he said attacked him last year at a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Gun control advocates warned the jury’s verdict could inspire a new wave of armed vigilantism, after Rittenhouse – armed with an AR-15-style rifle – traveled in August 2020 from his Illinois home to Kenosha after demonstrations erupted following the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. Guns have long been a potent political issue in the United States, where permissive laws have led to the highest rate of civilian firearm ownership in the world. Mass shootings, which are far more rare in other wealthy nations, have plagued the country for decades. Rittenhouse’s decision, at age 17, to roam the streets of Kenosha toting a weapon in the name of protecting private property from rioters struck a particular nerve about just how far gun rights should extend. “As the tragic events on that night in August showed, a 17-year-old arming himself with an AR-15 makes no one safer,” top officials at Giffords, the gun safety group, said in a statement. “Today’s verdict sends a troubling message that will encourage further vigilante violence and murder.” […]

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