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Open-carry gun laws and the legality of semiautomatic weapons have added a dark, deadly element to the social justice protests and counterprotest movements.

Demonstrators from the left and the right have taken a more aggressive stance as tensions over police brutality continue to rise.

As protests erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police action shooting of Jacob Blake, armed counterprotesters and self-proclaimed militia members arrived with semiautomatic rifles in hand.

Among them was Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been arrested for the fatal shooting of two protesters on Tuesday. Rittenhouse is a resident of Antioch, Illinois, about 20 miles from Kenosha. At age 17, he is too young to legally carry a firearm.

Regardless of counterprotesters’ intentions, it seems clear that arriving in a community not one’s own with weapons in hand only serves to escalate the tension.

The First Amendment protects the content of speech and expression but allows for time, place and manner restrictions. For example, the First Amendment does not protect your right to yell into a megaphone at 3 a.m. in a residential neighborhood.

The Second Amendment is a valuable part of our constitutional freedoms, but sound policy should respect the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. The Second Amendment protects your right to be armed for home and self-protection. It does not protect your right to brandish firearms for the purpose of intimidation or suppression of the free speech of others.

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