Spiderman, Superman, Batman…

Should vigilantes be subjected to the same punishments as criminals that commit crimes out of rage, self-reward, addiction, or just because they are bad?

According to Merriam-Webster, a vigilante is a self-appointed doer of justice.

A Law Library online encyclopedia defines Vigilantism as, “The act of taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to enact justice according to one’s own understanding of right and wrong; action taken by a voluntary association of persons who organize themselves for the purpose of protecting a common interest, such as liberty, property, or personal security; action taken by an individual or group to protest existing law; action taken by an individual or group to enforce a higher law than that enacted by society’s designated lawmaking institutions; private enforcement of legal norms in the absence of an established, reliable, and effective law enforcement body.”

The history of vigilantism in the United States is as old as the country itself. In many ways, the history of the United States began with vigilantism. On December 16, 1773, American colonists, tired of British direct taxation, took part in what came to be known as the Boston Tea Party. As part of the resistance, they threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.*

If justice wasn’t considered adequate for a victim, does that give someone the right to take the law into their own hands?

From Batman to Dexter, vigilantes have received Hollywood glam and public approval…but should they?

Fictional Vigilantes

Robin Hood
Robs the rich to give to the poor, and dates back as early as the 13th century.

Superman
Devoted to promoting “truth, justice, and the American way,” and has proved time and time again that he is a true hero, capable of whatever bravery and self-sacrifice is necessary to fight a wrong or save a life.

Batman
Motivated by a tragedy that took the lives of his parents, he traveled the world to learn every fighting technique he could and studied criminology, forensics, and criminal psychology. He became known as “a crusader against crime.”

Clyde Shelton (character from the movie Law Abiding Citizen)
Lost his wife and daughter to a heinous crime and then watched their murderer receive a light sentence (3 years). Ten years later he decides to take down the entire justice system, including the mayor.

Dexter
A serial killer who only kills serial killers. A boy who became a sociopath because of the tragic death of his biological mother, was taught ethics and procedures by his adoptive father so that he will never get caught. Seems crazy, right? Apparently he’s not the only crazy one because its Showtime’s top-rated series and was syndicated on cable TV after its first season.

Non-Fictional Vigilantes
Thankfully these heroes do not actually break the law to seek justice.

John Walsh/America’s Most Wanted
An entire level of the museum is devoted to the year-round filming studios of the television program, America’s Most Wanted. Guests can experience the personal story of host John Walsh and see how community involvement in fighting crime has led to dramatic results. More than 1,000 fugitives, including 15 criminals from the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, have been captured due to the crime tips that have been reported to trained operators who work on-site.

Sombra Negra (Black Shadow)
Said to be a group of police and military personnel who target members of MS13, an El Salvadorian based gang, known to be one of the most powerful criminal enterprises in the world.

The Guardian Angels
These New York promoters of safety and empowerment teach communities and schools to take control and responsibility of both their environment and their lives.

The Black Monday Society
Protecting the streets of Salt Lake City, UT they patrol the streets on Friday and Saturday nights, interfering with drug deals and gang activities.

Shadow Hare
A 21 year old masked superhero that patrols the streets of Cincinnati, OH armed with handcuffs, a taser, and pepper spray, fighting street-level crimes, and when he’s not doing all that he’s handing out food to the homeless. He isn’t alone either; there is an Allegiance of Heroes who have a website where they share all of their stories!

Anti Horse Thief Association
Founded in 1859 in Fort Scott, KS it protected honest folks from having their horses stolen during the Kansas-Missouri Border War.


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