The not-guilty verdict in the court case against Kyle Rittenhouse has ignited a debate about self-defense laws and also gun carry laws in the United States.
In August 2020, Rittenhouse, then 17 years old, had attended a protest that erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin, after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was paralyzed in a police shooting there. He had openly carried a semi-automatic AR-15 style rifle during the event, which he eventually fired at people accosting him, killing two people who hit him and tried to take his weapon as well as injuring one person who pointed a handgun at him.
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The jury in the case decided that Rittenhouse acted in self-defense while up against a hostile crowd that was partly armed and partly unarmed. Yet, his brandishing of a rifle had previously cast him at the center of attention as other protesters were eager to disarm him while believing, as the prosecution stated, that he was an active shooter.
Rittenhouse has said that he went to Kenosha to guard a car dealership that he feared would get vandalized. Wisconsin allows for anyone to carry guns openly, while the open carry of guns is completely prohibited in Rittenhouse’s home state of Illinois. Several states, especially in the Midwest and Southern United States have recently relaxed their carry laws, allowing for more open and concealed carry without the need to acquire a permit.
Texas recently became the 21st state which does not require permits for the open or concealed carry of firearms. The law change went into effect Sept. 1, 2021. Texas was the sixth state to enact so-called constitutional carry laws in 2021. Utah’s new law came into effect in early May. Montana followed on June 1, Iowa and Tennessee on July 1 and Arkansas in late August. Oklahoma, South Dakota and Kentucky had already done away with all carry permit requirements in 2019.
For many decades, Vermont was the only state with these types of laws, which is why the practice is sometimes also referred to as “Vermont carry.” In 2011, Wyoming was the first state to enact or re-introduce similar laws.
Throughout the U.S., there are nine states requiring permits for open and concealed carry. Another five (plus Washington D.C.) require permits for concealed carry and prohibit the open carry of most guns. 15 states allow the open carry of guns without a permit while requiring one for concealed carry (no states do it the other way around).
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