Breaking news just this afternoon: the Walker case has been accepted for oral argument by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, tentatively set for March 8 through March 12, 2021. This is the case with the video showing my client, Michael Walker, walking down the side of a public roadway in Putnam County, West Virginia, on his way coyote hunting. The video is at the link.
This is good news, being that we’re the ones appealing. Most appeals are decided with a written order and no oral argument. The ones with a good likelihood of success, or which are important issues of law, are generally set for oral argument.
Last Thursday, the ATF raided Polymer80 in Nevada, a seller of so-called “Ghost Gun” 80% kits for the home-manufacture of polymer pistols for personal use. The word on the street is, that they’ve been contacting customers. So what rights do you have if you’re a customer and the ATF comes knocking?
In 2018, West Virginia passed a wonderful pro-2nd Amendment piece of legislation, titled HB 4187, a.k.a. the “Parking Lot Bill,” which took effect on June 8, 2018. The bill prohibited businesses from banning firearms from vehicles in their parking lots. It also prohibited the hiring and firing of employees based on their possession of firearms.
About a year later, a national gun control group, which is really “Everytown for Gun Safety,” financed by Michael Bloomberg, using the b.s. name, “Coalition Against Domestic Violence.” Ironically, this group would forcibly disarm the very group they’re supposed to be advocating for. Victims of domestic violence would not have the option of defending themselves with firearms, from their would-be attackers, because they would have their employers enact policies (which corporations generally do) requiring that no firearms can be kept, even in their employees’ parked cars. Here’s the original lawsuit, in its entirety:
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey is the named defendant in the suit. His lawyers filed a motion to dismiss.
Last week, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver denied the motion. I had to read it for myself, since many were instantly outraged. Judge Copenhaver is as good as it gets. He was first appointed by President Ford, and is a workaholic, even in his 90s. I had the honor of trying a jury trial in front of him a few years back. Here is his ruling:
Keep in mind, that this is a ruling in a motion to dismiss – not a ruling on the merits of the challenge. It’s an easy standard for plaintiffs to pass in most cases. So, what were the grounds for allowing the lawsuit to proceed? Even though the gun control group is advocating for the restriction of the individual rights of West Virginia citizens, they’ve disguised their claims as seeking constitutional protections for a collection of domestic violence advocacy groups who are apparently horrified of armed attackers hiding guns in parking lots.
The motion was actually only seeking dismissal on grounds of “standing” and “ripeness,” which are both technical arguments not quite reaching the constitutionality issues. The Court rightly held that groups should be able to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes in federal court, and that they should be able to do so prior to any enforcement actions – not just afterwards. So this is a bit of a nothing-burger. At some point there will need to be a ruling on the constitutional issues.
One of the claims which will need to be decided, isn that the Parking Lot Bill violates the First Amendment – that there’s a free speech component to the being able to prohibit firearms on your business or organization property, if you don’t like guns. It will be interesting to see what happens with that, because it’s not all that different fro the claim we made in the same federal court last week in our challenge of the Governor’s mask mandate. Many laughed when I argued that compliance (or noncompliance) with a mask mandate was protected free speech. So let’s see if this similar argument gets any traction.
Recently, the 2nd Amendment advocacy organization, Gun Owners of America (GOA) submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, on behalf of “over a quarter of a million veterans” who have had, possibly unbeknownst to them, their gun rights stolen from them:
“For years, GOA has fought against VA’s practice of submitting names of veterans who need a fiduciary to the National Instant Check System (NICS), effectively banning these veterans from owning guns,” Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs for GOA, said. “It’s a disgrace to infringe the rights of those who have taken up arms for our country abroad, only to have that right taken away when they return home.”
Basically, since the Clinton Administration, the VA has been engaging in a policy of proactively causing the loss of gun rights for military veterans who require assistance with the management of their financial affairs, and appoint a fiduciary, such as is common with temporary bouts of PTSD for returning combat veterans. The GOA has been killing it lately in their efforts at protecting the 2nd Amendment. They’re trying to fix this injustice.
The proposed rule would prohibit the VA from transmitting information about a VA beneficiary to law enforcement agencies, and specifically the National Instant Background Check System (“NICS”) run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, solely and simply due to an appointment of a fiduciary to manage the finances of a beneficiary, without a judicial order in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4).
Federal law prohibits the receipt or possession of a firearm or ammunition by anyone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution.” 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). Federal law prohibits the receipt or possession of firearms or ammunition by anyone “who has been adjudicated as a mental defective or who has been committed to a mental institution” in 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). In 19976 and later in 2014,7 the BATFE expanded the definition of “adjudicated as a mental defective” to also include:
“[a] determination by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority that a person, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease: (1) Is a danger to himself or to others; or (2) Lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs.”
The problem is, that the VA is triggering this definition via their internal fiduciary determination process, which is occurring wholly without due process or judicial involvement or review.
This low standard, based upon a bureaucratic determination, is not commensurate with the BATFE’s higher standard of a determination by an authority such as a court that a person is for example of subnormal intelligence or a danger to others. The VA’s seriously flawed interpretive guidance sweeps up for reporting to NICS a host of persons who Congress never intended to disarm. Commitments and adjudications are done by the judicial system, not by VA bureaucrats. And the terms “mental defective” and “committed” apply to persons who, as a result of a marked subnormal intelligence or capacity, are permanently unable to function in society and historically were often institutionalized.
So what’s happening is this: a combat veteran returns from deployment and temporarily suffers from mild post-traumatic stress – even temporarily – and even if they rely on a family member to assist them with their finances, or balancing their checkbook, they are coming within the broad Department of Veteran Affairs definition, which is in turn coming within the definition of federal and state criminal statutes prohibiting the possession of firearms on mental health grounds.
This has been happening because, since 1998, the Clinton Administration DOJ began reporting to the FBI, for addition in the NICS index those beneficiaries who require a fiduciary to manage their VA benefits under VA regulations. In 2016, Congress provided for some due process protections in that bureaucratic framework in the “21st Century Cares Act” requiring notice and a hearing, and an opportunity to present a defense. However, the case remains that we are unnecessarily subjecting our veterans to a loss of their gun rights with a lower standards than the rest of the American population.
In contrast to Section 922, which pertains to disarming those “adjudicated as a mental defective or who ha[ve] been committed to a mental institution, 38 C.F.R. § 3.353’s determinations of incompetency pertain to the capacity of a veteran “to contract or to manage his or her own affairs, including disbursement of funds without limitation,”10 for the specific purposes of insurance and disbursement of benefits, and are made according to “the beneficiary’s social, economic and industrial adjustment.” 11 Not only the standard, but the intention and scope of the criminal statute, used to justify reporting veterans in the fiduciary program to the NICS database, differ from those of the VA regulation so substantially as to make clear the inapplicability of the VA fiduciary process as a reasonable determination of “mentally defective” requiring reporting to the NICS database.
The GOA’s proposed change in VA rules would prevent this from happening, and would protect the 2nd Amendment rights of veterans – or at least make them equal to the rest of us. They could still be adjudicated mentally defective, as with anyone else. But there would be no systematic deprivation of rights, such as has existed since 1998.
Then, on top of this, some states have enacted, or attempted to enact, so-called “Red Flag Laws,” such as the one enacted in Virginia, which allows “authorities to convince a judge that a person would be a danger to themselves or others….” and does so in the absence of due process, but rather based on the word of some other individual. What follows, is law enforcement being sent to the individual’s home to confiscate guns. There have already been innocent people killed as a result of these laws, such as occurred in Maryland. The fact is, there are over 1.6 million disabled veterans with service-connected adjudication by the VA of “mental illness,” including one million vets with PTSD. These determinations, if and when made, should be made on a case-by-case basis, and should not be systematic, nor made by bureaucrats at the VA, or elsewhere.
Election Day! Who knows what’s going to happen tonight and the next few days. Understand your state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, if it has one. And if not, understand what the self defense laws are in your state. As of January 1, 2020, 34 states have stand-your-ground laws or have expanded castle doctrine to apply beyond the home. Eight states have expanded castle doctrine to motor vehicles or the workplace.
“There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet an enemy.”
– George Washington
“The right of self-defense never ceases. It is among the most sacred, and alike necessary to nations and to individuals.”
– James Monroe, Second annual message to Congress, November 16, 1818
“Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace. One wonders indeed, if the rising crime rate, isn’t due as much as anything to the criminal’s instinctive knowledge that the average victim no longer has means of self-protection.”
– Ronald Reagan
The criminal does not expect his prey to fight back. May he never choose you, but, if he does, surprise him.
– Jeff Cooper
“Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defense or for the defense of the defenseless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Standard castle doctrine states that a person in his or her own home does not have a duty to retreat prior to using force, including deadly force, in self-defense.
‘STAND YOUR GROUND’ LAW
A stand-your-ground law varies by state, and generally provides that people may use deadly force when they reasonably believe it to be necessary to defend against a threat of death, serious bodily harm, and other serious crimes, differing slightly between states, without there being a duty to retreat before using such deadly force in self-defense.
It is generally required that the individual who is standing his ground be in a place where he or she is lawfully present. Stand-your-ground laws generally cannot be invoked by someone who is the initial aggressor, or who is otherwise engaged in criminal activity. The exact details vary by jurisdiction.
YE OLD DUTY TO RETREAT
The alternative to stand your ground is “duty to retreat.” In states that implement a duty to retreat, even a person who is unlawfully attacked (or who is defending someone who is unlawfully attacked) may not use deadly force if it is possible to instead avoid the danger with complete safety by retreating.
Even duty-to-retreat states generally follow the “castle doctrine,” under which people have no duty to retreat when they are attacked in their homes, or (in some states) in their vehicles or workplaces.
BREAKDOWN OF STATES
Laws in at least 25 states allow that there is no duty to retreat an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.
(Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.)
At least ten of those states include language stating one may “stand his or her ground.” (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.)
Pennsylvania’s law, amended in 2011, distinguishes use of deadly force outside one’s home or vehicle. It provides that in such locations one cannot use deadly force unless he has reasonable belief of imminent death or injury, and either he or she cannot retreat in safety or the attacker displays or uses a lethal weapon.
Idaho’s law, passed in 2018, expanded the definition of justifiable homicide to include not only defending one’s home against an intruder, but also defending one’s place of employment or an occupied vehicle.
Self-defense laws in at least 23 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee West Virginia and Wisconsin) provide civil immunity under certain self- defense circumstances.
Statutes in at least six states (Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee) assert that civil remedies are unaffected by criminal provisions of self-defense law.
*In 2018, the Ohio House and Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 228. The bill places the burden of disproving a self-defense claim on the prosecution.
WEST VIRGINIA, SPECIFICALLY:
West Virginia is a “stand your ground state,” and does not require a person to retreat before using force, including deadly force:
(a) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence is justified in using reasonable and proportionate force, including deadly force, against an intruder or attacker to prevent a forcible entry into the home or residence or to terminate the intruder’s or attacker’s unlawful entry if the occupant reasonably apprehends that the intruder or attacker may kill or inflict serious bodily harm upon the occupant or others in the home or residence or if the occupant reasonably believes that the intruder or attacker intends to commit a felony in the home or residence and the occupant reasonably believes deadly force is necessary.
(b) A lawful occupant within a home or other place of residence does not have a duty to retreat from an intruder or attacker in the circumstances described in subsection (a) of this section.
(c) A person not engaged in unlawful activity who is attacked in any place he or she has a legal right to be outside of his or her home or residence may use reasonable and proportionate force against an intruder or attacker: Provided, That such person may use deadly force against an intruder or attacker in a place that is not his or her residence without a duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that he or she or another is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm from which he or she or another can only be saved by the use of deadly force against the intruder or attacker.
(d) The justified use of reasonable and proportionate force under this section shall constitute a full and complete defense to any civil action brought by an intruder or attacker against a person using such force.
W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(a)-(d).
Of course, there are exceptions. The absolute immunity afforded by Section 55-7-22 does not apply in the following circumstances:
– The person who would invoke Section 55-7-22 was attempting to commit, committing, or escaping from the commission of a felony;
– The person initially provoked the use of force against himself, herself, or another with the intent to use such force as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
– Otherwise initially provokes the use of force against himself, herself, or another, unless the individual withdraws from the physical contact and clearly indicates to the assailant the desire to withdraw, but the assailant continues to use force.
W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(e)(1)-(3). Case law considering Section 55-7-22 is sparse. See State v. Samuel (No. 13-0273, Mem. Dec.) (Nov. 8, 2013); United States v. Matheny (No. 2:12-CR-00068, S.D. W. Va., May 8, 2012).
STILL NO BOOBY TRAPS:
Nothing in Section 55-7-22, however, permits the creation of a hazardous condition on or in real or personal property designed to prevent criminal conduct or cause injury to a person engaging in criminal conduct (e.g., spring-loaded shotguns). Nor does Section 55-7-22 authorize or justify a person to resist or obstruct a law-enforcement officer acting in the course of his or her duty. W. Va. Code § 55-7-22(g).
The Civil Rights Lawyer explains how to handle a traffic stop – a discussion on constitutional law issues surrounding traffic stops and gives commentary on Do’s and Don’ts for both drivers and police officers during the course of traffic stops. TUE 10/27 at 6pm.
Set your reminder, notifications, and subscribe. Bring your experiences, your issues, and your questions, live for Freedom is Scary Live Episode No. 22. This will somewhat of a continuation from FIS No. 21, since so many issues arise in the context of traffic stops. Firearms, searches, lying….. lots of issues and topics.
On with me tonight on Freedom is Scary, Episode 18, live, is Benjamin Hatfield, Esq., the Republican Nominee for Prosecuting Attorney of Raleigh County, West Virginia. Most state level prosecutors are elected politicians with party affiliations. They are enormously powerful, as demonstrated by the Rittenhouse and McCloskey cases. You can watch read here on this Youtube link, or on our Facebook page using Facebook Live. It will be simultaneously streamed to both. You can also submit comments and/or questions on both platforms.
In this video we’ll discuss what you need to know before voting for or supporting a prosecutor candidate. There is a reason George Soros is funding radical left-wing prosecutors around the country. Prosecutors hold the keys to the criminal courtrooms, and can design prosecutions to further their social justice and radical anti-gun and anti-freedom agendas – long before they reach the judiciary. Is there a difference between Democrat and Republican prosecutors? I’ll answer that question with another question: is there a difference in the Democrat and Republican platforms in regards to a law abiding citizen defending themselves, or their homes, with firearms?
This is an urgent situation for all of us now. Join me LIVE with special guest, Benjamin Hatfield, Esq., the Republican Nominee for Prosecuting Attorney of Raleigh County, West Virginia (Beckley, WV), who is running against a career Democrat prosecutor, who hasn’t had a contested election in over a decade, and who has been a prosecutor there since 1983. The law abiding citizens there are suffering.
Hatfield is a former assistant prosecutor in that county, and currently works as a civil litigation attorney at a private law firm. If you’re in West Virginia, and if you’re anywhere near Raleigh County, you may have seen some of the issues occurring there recently. You want to pay close attention to this race, and I encourage you to take a hard look at Mr. Hatfield, and then do whatever you can to help him. Because your liberty may count on it. Tune in to see why and to ask questions.
If you can send any financial help his way, donations can be sent to the “Committee to Elect Benjamin Hatfield,” PO Box 5241, Beckley, WV 25801.
Update: Here’s the article on Soros funding the Trojan Horse prosecutors I referenced in the video:
After St. Louis erupted in violence, arson, and looting, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner ($307,000) dismissed all charges against the 36 people arrested for that violence. In the last few days eight St. Louis police officers have been shot.
At the same time, Gardner rushed to file charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the homeowners who brandished (but did not use) guns at protestors who had entered the private street where the McCloskeys reside.
In Chicago, Illinois State’s Attorney Kim Foxx ($817,000) refused to prosecute rioters who violated the curfew imposed to quell the violence. “The question it comes down to is, is it a good use of our time and resources? No, it’s not.” What does she think would be a better use of her time and resources?
You probably remember Foxx. She dismissed the charges against Jussie Smollett, the actor who reported a hate crime attack against himself that turned out to be bogus. A judge removed Foxx from the case and assigned a special prosecutor who filed six new charges.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner ($1.7 Million) announced he won’t prosecute people arrested for the violence that rocked his city for days with widespread looting and many cars torched. His excuse for not holding the mob accountable for their violence was laughable. “Prosecution alone will achieve nothing close to justice—not when power imbalances and lack of accountability make it possible for government actors including police or prosecutors to regularly take life or liberty unjustly and face no criminal or career penalty….” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin ($620,000) is the beau ideal of the Trojan Horse prosecutors. “The criminal justice system isn’t just massive and brutal, it’s also racist,” according to Boudin…. In Portland, DA Mike Schmidt ($230,000) refuses to prosecute the rioters who have burned and looted his city for over 90 days straight…..
Since 2018, Soros has made Virginia the focus of his efforts. And it has paid dividends. Trojan Horse candidates have taken over five of the largest prosecutor’s offices in the Commonwealth: Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Albemarle, Portsmouth, and Loudoun.
We received the brief from the lawyers for Putnam County, West Virginia in the Michael Walker case, the AR-15 open carry case currently pending at the Fourth Circuit. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the video of the interaction at issue in the case:
The primary issue in dispute is whether a police officer can stop, detain and run a criminal background check, on an individual safely and lawfully openly-carrying an AR-15 style rifle. Putnam County’s law enforcement is arguing essentially that the AR-15 is a weapon of mass murder and warfare, and that it’s inherently suspicious of criminal conduct. Here are a few nuggets from their brief:
Finally, Mr. Walker’s argument that AR-15 style rifles may not be treated differently than less deadly firearms for reasonable suspicion purposes holds no basis in law, and is contrary to the public safety and intuitive sense. Different firearms have different utilities, purposes, and common uses, and their presence therefore draws different inferences. An AR-15 has more killing power, and is more commonly used in indiscriminate public gun violence than many more commonplace sporting or self-defense weapons, and therefore raises a greater concern for public safety in context. The fact that the AR-15 is so notoriously popular among the deadliest mass shooters also raises reasonable concerns over a copycat mass shooting. Objects need not be illegal for their presence, in appropriate context, to contribute to reasonable suspicion, and there is no reason for bearers of AR-15 style rifles to receive special protection.
“Killing Power?” Is that a scientific unit of measurement. If shotguns are okay, or a bolt-action hunting rifle is okay, then I wonder if they’re aware that an AR-15 uses a .223 caliber diameter round, which is unlawful to use for hunting in some states because it’s too small of a caliber, and therefore not deadly enough for game such as deer (as compared to the good ‘ole .308 or .270 Winchester calibers, etc., etc.).
This is a suburban residential and commercial area which is unsuitable for hunting or target shooting, and Mr. Walker was not wearing any items of blaze orange, or anything else which would signal to an observer that his intention was hunting. (See id.). Furthermore, this interaction occurred in February, when almost no commonly hunted animals, with the exception of noxious pests, are in season. Nor is an AR- 15 a weapon commonly used for hunting, such as a deer rifle or shotgun, or carried for self-defense, such as the handgun possessed by Mr. Troupe in Black. I
Was I the only one who just saw something happen on the news recently involving an AR-15 openly carried for self-defense, and used in self-defense? I think I recall something like that in the news. I bet this is also news to all their law enforcement officers in their county, and surrounding counties, who have an AR-15 in the police cruisers. Those are for hunting, right? Definitely not self defense. It appears that they just don’t like the AR-15:
The mass shooter’s preference for AR-15’s is because, as former U. S. Marine infantry officer and author of “The Gun,” a history of assault rifles and their effects upon security and war, C. J. Chivers, wrote in a February 28, 2018 New York Times column: When a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, he was carrying an AR-15-style rifle that allowed him to fire upon people in much the same way that many American soldiers and Marines would fire their M16 and M4 rifles in combat. See Chivers, C. J., Larry Buchanan, Denise Lu, and Karen Yourish, With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops, The New York Times (Feb. 28, 2018),
In sum, AR-15 style rifles give the wielder the capability to kill more people in a shorter amount of time than more commonplace styles of firearm, making it an appealing choice for a would-be mass shooter whose goal is exactly that, and a greater danger to public safety than would more commonplace, less-powerful, lower-capacity firearms, such as shotguns or handguns.
How is a .223 caliber rifle “more powerful” than a .308 bolt action hunting rifle? I wonder if they know that the M-60 machine gun is chambered in .308? I wonder if they know that our military has snipers who kill human beings with what are essentially hunting rifles chambered in the same caliber as hunting rifles, such as .308 caliber? They don’t chamber sniper rifles in .223 caliber found in AR-15s, because they are not powerful enough. Complete hogwash……
As discussed in prior sections of this brief, AR-15 style rifles have been featured in substantially all of the deadliest mass shootings in this decade. Mass murderers in Las Vegas and Orlando have killed and wounded over one hundred people in a single event with AR-15. Revolvers and bolt-action deer rifles do not share that infamy. It is therefore reasonable to infer that a person attempting to copycat a mass shooting would likely use the weapon of choice of mass shooters. If officers are concerned about a potential mass shooter, certainly they would justifiably be more concerned by a person carrying an AR-15 than one of the many firearms more commonly used for hunting or self-defense. Different inferences may be reasonably drawn from the presence of different firearms, because different firearms are used for different things: a person viewed at a gun range carrying a shotgun may be presumed to be there to shoot clay pigeons, whereas a person carrying a rifle is almost certainly not.
This is coming from the first county in the State of West Virginia to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” L.O.L. Also, by the way, there was no indication whatsoever that there was any indication or concern that Michael Walker could have been a copycat mass-murderer. That was all made up by lawyers after the lawsuit was filed. The entire incident was filmed. The entire 911 transcript exists. There was nothing that day to concern law enforcement, nor which did concern law enforcement, that Michael was a threat to a school. It was merely harassment for openly carrying a lawful and safely carried AR-15 style rifle.
Next we get to file a Reply Brief, responding to their response. At that point it will be in the hands of the Court. They can hold oral arguments, or rule on their briefs.
What are our “rights” as law abiding citizens and/or property owners, when it comes to violent rioters or protestors? Are AR-15s treated differently? Episode 9 of FIS gets to the heart of the concept that “freedom is scary,” so questions need to be discussed. Join me LIVE and bring your own questions, if you’ve got them. Here are some good ones:
Can you unlawfully possess a firearm and then lawfully use that firearm in a self defense situation?
Can you and should you be able to defend private property with deadly force, and if not, can the law be changed in your state?
Were there new information releases today relevant to the probable legality of self defense for Kyle Rittenhouse?
Does the mention of “militia” in the 2nd Amendment have any applicability?
What federal circuit covers Wisconsin and has it been favorable to the exercise of 2nd Amendment rights and the right of self defense in the context of AR-15 style rifles?
The Rittenhouse shootings were the next logical step of violent riots, combined with government leaders who allow them to occur. What happens when the right to riot collides with the natural rights or life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or more specifically, the right to life, i.e., the right to self defense? It may be a new normal in 2020, but we build courthouses for a reason: to sort out the facts, and apply the law. The difficult part is to ensure a fair trial without the media poisoning the potential jury pool with misinformation, and misnomers, such as “armed vigilante,” “assault rifle,” “peaceful protestors,” and so on, and to let the true facts fall where they may. In the end, our Founders demanded, and ensured, that we have the right to a jury of our peers for a very good reason. That’s the only thing standing in between an individual in this position, and a lifetime of being locked away in a cage.
The facts can be sorted out. There are multiple videos of the incident. There will be many pictures and screenshots, and slow motion, or frame by frame versions of the incidents. Easier to determine is, what sort of laws will be applied here?
Possession of Firearms in Wisconsin and Illinois:
Wisconsin firearms law provides for open carry of loaded rifles and pistols for those 18 and older not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms. Unless Rittenhouse’s age has been incorrectly reported he would be in violation of these statutes. Similar statutes exist in Illinois. Further, in Wisconsin and Illinois, providing an underaged individual with a firearm is a felony. It seems safe to assume that Rittenhouse’s enthusiasm for firearms was supported at least in some measure by his legal guardians. If they knowingly lent him use of the AR he carried in Kenosha they may face charges under these statutes.
Transportation of Firearms between Wisconsin and Illinois:
Federal law pre-empts the prosecution of illegal transportation via 18 U.S.C. §?926A which provides:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of any law or any rule or regulation of a State or any political subdivision thereof, any person who is not otherwise prohibited by this chapter from transporting, shipping, or receiving a firearm shall be entitled to transport a firearm for any lawful purpose from any place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm to any other place where he may lawfully possess and carry such firearm if, during such transportation the firearm is unloaded, and neither the firearm nor any ammunition being transported is readily accessible or is directly accessible from the passenger compartment of such transporting vehicle: Provided, That in the case of a vehicle without a compartment separate from the driver’s compartment the firearm or ammunition shall be contained in a locked container other than the glove compartment or console.”
Any number of state statutes in Wisconsin or Illinois may govern the illegal importation or exportation of firearms where the “peaceable journey” exemption of 18 U.S.C. § 926A does not preempt. Rittenhouse is in jeopardy here if his age is reported correctly as he is not legally able to possess the AR platform he possessed in Kenosha in either Wisconsin or Illinois.
In general, and Wisconsin is no exception, a “self-defence” defence to homicide (i.e. “justifiable homicide” or “excusable homicide”) or the use of deadly or potentially force requires several elements. Those claiming self defence must:
1. Have the reasonable belief that… 2. …they or another person… 3. …are in imminent… 4. …danger of death or great bodily harm, and… 5. …that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent said harm.
Key elements of the defence to hone in on are:
Reasonability. Would a reasonable person fear for your life under the circumstances presented?
Imminent. Is the threatened death or great bodily harm about to occur that moment, or at some other time? It has to be literally about to occur.
Wisconsin incorporates these elements in its excusable homicide statute thus:
“A person is privileged to threaten or intentionally use force against another for the purpose of preventing or terminating what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his or her person by such other person. The actor may intentionally use only such force or threat thereof as the actor reasonably believes is necessary to prevent or terminate the interference. The actor may not intentionally use force which is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless the actor reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself.” (Wisconsin Updated Statutes 2019 § 939.48(1))
Further, many jurisdictions do not permit defendants to use self-defense as an argument if deadly force was used in a confrontation the defendant him or herself precipitated. Wisconsin is one such jurisdiction, terming the restriction “Provocation” providing:
“A person who engages in unlawful conduct of a type likely to provoke others to attack him or her and thereby does provoke an attack is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence against such attack, except when the attack which ensues is of a type causing the person engaging in the unlawful conduct to reasonably believe that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm. In such a case, the person engaging in the unlawful conduct is privileged to act in self-defence, but the person is not privileged to resort to the use of force intended or likely to cause death to the person’s assailant unless the person reasonably believes he or she has exhausted every other reasonable means to escape from or otherwise avoid death or great bodily harm at the hands of his or her assailant.
The privilege lost by provocation may be regained if the actor in good faith withdraws from the fight and gives adequate notice thereof to his or her assailant.
A person who provokes an attack, whether by lawful or unlawful conduct, with intent to use such an attack as an excuse to cause death or great bodily harm to his or her assailant is not entitled to claim the privilege of self-defence.” (Wisconsin Updated Statutes 2019 § 939.48(2))
Use of Deadly Force By Rittenhouse
Was there a reasonable belief of imminent death or great bodily harm?
Did Rittenhouse provoke the aggressors? In both episodes, Rittenhouse appears to be attempting to retreat. In the first, he is shown on video being chased, and having something thrown at him. In the second episode, they are clearly chasing him, and attacking him. One attacker had a skateboard, and another had a pistol. Moreover, he appears to be using every effort at escaping, i.e., exhausting his reasonable means to escape, in the second episode.
What about the illegal possession of a firearm? That remains to be seen. Self-defense should still apply, whether or not it utilizes an illegally possessed firearm, which is not a requirement of the basic self-defense analysis. Then again, I’m not a Wisconsin lawyer, so…….