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DC – MEDIA – Gun laws were meant to ban private militants. Now, our hands are tied.

Last week, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse traveled 20 miles from his home in Illinois to Kenosha, Wis., to join others on a self-described mission to prevent looting. After equipping himself with a high-powered rifle, Rittenhouse appears to have killed two protesters and is now charged with murder. His apologists claim that the Second Amendment gives groups of individuals a right to gear up with lethal weapons and patrol not only their own streets but the streets of distant cities. “If the cops aren’t going to stop them from throwing pipe bombs on innocent civilians, somebody has to,” an anonymous armed man in Kenosha told a Washington Post reporter. (There have yet been no reports of pipe-bomb attacks.) But nothing about the Second Amendment protects armed vigilantism. Instead, the story of gun rights and regulation in the United States has been marked, since the beginning, by efforts to restrict and control private armed groups, not unleash them. As Georgetown Law School professor Mary B. McCord pointed out in a letter to Kenosha’s mayor and other Wisconsin officials, all 50 states forbid private paramilitaries, which operate outside of official chains of command, and Wisconsin specifically prohibits such groups from acting as law enforcement. Unfortunately, a combination of gun politics, permissive gun laws and social media technology have made these regulations relatively easy to evade. As a nation, we’ve blundered into an untenable situation where an armed flash mob can converge on an area, escalate tensions, even start shooting — and police can do little prevent it. It is unwise to allow private armed groups to become normalized in our political life — whether the groups are gathering to protest law enforcement or to aid them.  [full article]

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