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In the Rittenhouse Trial, America’s Gun Laws Took the Stand

The gun violence on the streets of Kenosha is what happens when a major political party permits—and encourages—long-gun ownership and vigilantism.

The  country’s unique gun culture belonged at the forefront of the national debate over the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, says Democratic strategist, journalist, and gun policy researcher Cliff Schecter.

“Nobody should be showing up to rallies with these weapons,” he said during a Roundtable discussion of the recently concluded trial. “This wouldn't happen in other democracies that we like to compare ourselves to. [In other countries] those weapons aren't legal and you don't have one party encouraging people to show up with them because it's your 'natural right.'”

Schecter questioned the judge's logic in dismissing the gun charge against Rittenhouse, noting that the relevant gun laws were written to apply to “rifles and shotguns—the kinds you took your kids out to hunt with.” If we employed a more reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment, he continued, “this kid is never there. And he goes to prison for even showing up with an assault rifle, because we believe in civilization, and we believe that when every person shows up with a gun, it leads to chaos.” 

Gun policy has been racialized in the United States, argued Schecter, by the Republican Party and its ally, the National Rifle Association: “The NRA has been selling this white nationalist narrative to get people to buy guns for a long time, based upon our racial divisions.”

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Bill Blum, a former California state judge and journalist who writes widely on legal issues, likewise expressed dismay at the judge’s dismissal of the gun charge against Rittenhouse.

“I expected a not-guilty verdict on the first five counts, but I expected a conviction on the sixth, which was the gun charge,” said Blum. “The judge really has no business being on the bench.” 

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