The Left's Campaign Against Self-Defense
Last week, federal prosecutors offered an undisclosed plea deal to two lawyers who firebombed an NYPD van and drove around passing out Molotov cocktails to protesters at a violent May 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in Brooklyn. Urooj Rahman, 31, and Colinford Mattis, 32, who was driving the car used in the crime, had been indicted in June for arson, conspiracy, and the use of explosives. They faced life imprisonment.
In the name of “social justice,” politicians and the judiciary in many cities and states are bestowing moral rights on violent left-wing and anarchist groups. District attorney Mike Schmidt, for instance, announced in August that he won’t prosecute most of the 550 people arrested during the 75 days of mayhem in Portland last spring. He said the leniency was an attempt to “create a forum” to express “collective grief, anger, and frustration” at the death of George Floyd and the history of abuses endured by people of color. Worse, he said using the criminal justice system against them would “undermine public safety” for those “demanding to be heard.” Schmidt, his Democrat cohort, and leftist sympathizers in journalism, law, and academia willfully ignore the fact that such misplaced clemency condones and encourages militant groups’ violence, their disrespect for the law, and their anti-American agenda.
In stark contrast, prosecutors are bearing down heavily on gun owners who defended themselves at protests by militant leftist groups like Antifa and BLM. Under threat are the Second Amendment right to bear arms and the legal justification to act in self-defense.
The protests and rioting in over 200 cities by leftist groups in 2020 has led to a skyrocketing of gun sales. This is driven by worries that, in response to the groups’ anarchist demands, Democrat-run municipalities and administrations are reducing funds for policing and law enforcement. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates that last year, nearly five million Americans purchased a firearm for the first time. It’s noteworthy that the largest increase in sales of any demographic group was among blacks, who accounted for 58% of the sales. There’s even a black gun advocacy group called Black Guns Matter, founded and led by Maj Toure, a rapper and self-styled social activist.
The Second Amendment grants arms-bearing rights regardless of skin color, and this must no doubt be upheld. But the way biased prosecutors have responded to self-defense cases -- all involving people menaced or attacked by Antifa-BLM protestors -- is really a cause for worry. For the outcomes in these cases depart from the clement posture prosecutors have taken in cases related to the violence and bedlam perpetuated by the Antifa and the BLM. Three cases of self-defense stand out in particular: the Michael Strickland case, the Mark and Patricia McCloskey case, and the Kyle Rittenhouse case.
The case of journalist Michael Strickland is emblematic: he was found guilty by an Oregon court for defending himself by pulling out and pointing a gun for which he had a concealed carry permit. Covering an Antifa-BLM protest in Portland in 2016, he was surrounded and attacked. Fearing for his life, he pulled out his handgun -- and with finger off the trigger -- got the mob to back off so that he could escape. He was arrested, accumulated 21 charges, ten of which were felonies, found guilty by a stacked jury, and ordered to jail. The prosecuting attorney launched a media smear campaign against Strickland and the presiding judge, who ended up denying that the case met the “reasonable person” standard, refused to allow exculpatory evidence. Strickland served 40 days, received five years’ probation, and was stripped of his Second Amendment rights. He is no longer allowed to practice journalism and cover leftist mobs.
Top lawyer Robert Barnes, who has taken up Strickland’s case in the Supreme Court of the United States, has cited the assault on his client as adequate grounds for self-defense. He reviles the Oregon Department of Justice for describing Antifa as a legitimate part of Portland’s “protest community” and his client as a “polarizing” reporter not fit to cover public events because of his views. Clearly, the felony charges for showing he was armed for protection are unjust, especially in the light of Antifa-BLM being free to perpetuate violence. And clearly, the anarchists are well-protected by the media, politicians, and law enforcement, while those who dare defend themselves are prosecuted.
In another clear case of self-defense, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, both lawyers, stand charged with a felony for defending themselves by openly exhibiting their weapons against a premeditated assault. The protestors had broken into Portland Place, a gated neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, in June 2020, and threatened to harm them and destroy their property. The police and private security had failed to respond.
Ironically, circuit attorney Kim Gardner released dozens of rioters held for looting, arson, and destruction in St Louis. Two trial court judges had disqualified Gardner for prosecuting the McCloskey case because she inappropriately used it in fundraising emails before the Democratic primary. She recently requested that the Missouri Supreme Court restore her authority to prosecute the case. The McCloskey’s ordeal isn’t over. As Mark McCloskey astutely observed, “The circuit attorney has apparently decided her job as a prosecutor isn’t to keep us safe from criminals but to keep the criminals safe from us.”
The third case is of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, an Antioch, Illinois, a resident who volunteered to guard businesses in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when riots broke out in September over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse is a lifeguard, an emergency medical technician, and founder of Humanizing the Badge, an organization “to forge stronger relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.” He was legally armed.
While trying to put out a fire, Rittenhouse was chased by a rioter, Joseph Rosenbaum, a registered sex offender convicted by an Arizona court in 2002 for sexual contact with a minor. A random shot rang out, and Rittenhouse found himself surrounded by a mob with bats and other weapons. The teen fired four shots in self-defense, tried to flee, and even tried calling 911 to turn himself in. As he ran, he was assaulted with a skateboard and suffered an attempt to seize his rifle. In the end, Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, were killed, and Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, was injured.
Although he acted in self-defense, Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of homicide and released on a $2 million bond. His family, facing death threats, has moved to a safe house. Remarking on the case, President Trump said, “I guess he was in very big trouble. He probably would have been killed.”
In all three cases, there seem to be clear-cut arguments for self-defense in the face of imminent danger. So the prosecution of Strickland, the McCloskeys, and Rittenhouse looks like a witch hunt meant to bolster calls for radical gun-control legislation. The exoneration or light sentencing of rioters responsible for destroying communities and hundreds of assaults underlines that suspicion. The Biden administration is pushing to gut the Second Amendment, and gun confiscation may be on the horizon. This leads to the logical conclusion that the outcome for Strickland, the McCloskeys, and Rittenhouse is anything but certain.
The final rulings on these cases will be a weathervane for the future of self-defense in the U.S. Americans could very well be in danger of losing their right to own firearms and use them for their protection.