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Is Vigilantism Ever Permissible?
When the state and its organs prove incapable of providing justice to the people, it is necessary for some other group to step up and provide said justice.
Racial and socio-economic biases
in states' justice systems deny many individuals the justice and equality they deserve.
Vigilantism can offer an opportunity to build awareness of important issues which can
occasionally result in tangible change.
There is some language in the U.S. Constitution that
specifically supports and recognises the legitimacy of some forms of vigilantism
if the government breaches its promise to protect its citizens.
Imagine you see someone about to rape another person and you own a firearm. If you shoot the would be rapist, you are commiting an act of vigilantism and are indeed a criminal. However, to witness a rape and do nothing, would be a far worse act than to merely be branded a criminal.
If states fail to keep their end of the social contract by denying adequate protection and justice to their civilians, it is legitimate for people to take justice into their own hands.
In newly democratic states or immature democracies, often the formal institutions are not capable of providing citizens with even the most basic conditions of life, especially in the area of public safety.
Some form of justice, even if it is problematic, is better than the absence of a justice system.
In countries where the rule of law is weak,
racketeering, bribes and collusion are common within the police force
and consequently people can not depend on their police to administer justice fairly (p.4).
In undemocratic states, where people's basic rights aren't respected, vigilantes can be the only force of justice able to protect them.
When lay people take over from the state this can
an already difficult situation, rather than solve it.
Vigilante justice is
sporadic and limited
. These groups can only focus on a few cases, meaning many people are still without help.