Capitol Rioter Indicted Under Rarely Used Gun Law Written To Target Black Activists

·3 min read
Guy Reffitt faces a new gun charge in connection with the Capitol attack. (Photo: Justice Department)
Guy Reffitt faces a new gun charge in connection with the Capitol attack. (Photo: Justice Department)

A grand jury has invoked a rarely used federal statute to indict a Capitol defendant who repeatedly admitted transporting a weapon across state lines ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The D.C. federal grand jury, in a superseding indictment returned Wednesday and unsealed Thursday, charged Guy Reffitt of Texas with transporting “a rifle and a semi-automatic handgun, knowing and having reason to know and intending that the firearm will be used unlawfully in furtherance of a civil disorder.”

Reffitt is the first Capitol defendant indicted under the firearm component of the civil disorder statute, according to a law enforcement official. That civil disorder statute was passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, championed by segregationist lawmakers intent on targeting Black activists. In addition to being used against accused rioters in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, the civil disorder statute has been used against more than 100 of the nearly 500 defendants charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Reffitt was originally arrested on Jan. 18. His son, who had contacted the FBI about two weeks before the Jan. 6 riot, told the feds that Reffitt made threatening statements. He was ordered held until trial.

Reffitt, in a letter to ProPublica, bragged that the group could have taken over the U.S. Capitol if they had wanted to, and was recorded telling his son that he did bring a weapon onto Capitol grounds.

He later bragged about carrying a pistol to the Capitol and telling an officer he “better get a bigger damn gun,” according to federal authorities.

“I had my Spartan Armor plates, my kidney plates, and my .40 on my side,” Reffitt allegedly told other members of the Three Percenters militia in a Zoom call on Jan. 10. Federal authorities also alleged that Reffitt “laid out his plan to attack ‘mainstream media,’ ‘Silicon Valley,’ and ‘Big Tech’” during that militia meeting, and described a social media company’s facility in a nearby Texas town.

Some congressional Republicans ― 147 of whom voted to overturn the 2020 election results ― have sought to downplay the Jan. 6 attack, objecting to the use of the term “insurrection” and claiming that few defendants were arrested with weapons on Jan. 6, even though law enforcement officials were so overwhelmed on Jan. 6 that they made very few arrests on the spot. One Republican who has downplayed the attack, Rep. Andrew Clyde of Georgia, refused to shake the hand of D.C. police officer Mike Fanone, who was electroshocked by Trump fanatic Daniel Rodriguez that day.

But the truth is that many of the defendants who swarmed the Capitol didn’t leave their guns at home because of some high-minded commitment to nonviolence. As laid out in multiple court documents and in HuffPost’s review of the social media accounts of several Capitol defendants, many of the rioters made a strategic choice not to bring firearms because they believed that carrying such weapons would make them less effective. They worried that, under D.C. gun laws, law enforcement would arrest them before they reached the Capitol. So they strategically made the choice to carry street-legal weapons they could use at the Capitol: stun guns, Tasers, pepper spray, bear spray, wasp spray, baseball bats, axes, hockey sticks, batons, flagpoles, knives and anything they could use as a blunt weapon.

As federal authorities continue to make their way through cases and discover additional evidence, more weapons charges against future and current defendants are a near certainty.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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