(AP Photo/John Rudoff)

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The Portland police bureau charged a 65-year-old man from Gresham, Oregon, over a gunfight in the city’s downtown during violent clashes on Sunday. Authorities say Dennis Anderson drew a concealed handgun and shot at a group of anti-fascists who were trying to expel him from the area. At least one of the anti-fascists shot back, according to authorities, with seven shots exchanged between the two sides. …

The use of airsoft and paintball guns, just like any weapon, can be prosecuted when they are used to threaten others. Earlier this month, a Portland resident was arrested for pointing an airsoft weapon at a journalist, under a statute that penalises the misuse of “dangerous or deadly weapons”. But they are not subject to any specific federal or state laws, and nor are they covered by firearms laws.

The weapons’ legal status, as well as their non-lethality, have made them an attractive option for extremist groups in and outside of the US, said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at George Washington University’s program on extremism.

Lewis argued that the Proud Boys were likely to continue to use the weapons in Portland and anywhere where there was a “lax local response” to the group’s activities from law enforcement.

On Sunday, the absence of police during the confrontations raised questions about whether authorities in the city were willing, or able, to stop the violence.

The Portland police bureau (PPB) chief, Chuck Lovell, announced in repeated statements in advance of the unpermitted rally that protesters “should not expect to see police officers standing in the middle of the crowd trying to keep people apart”.

The tactic gave rally-goers and counter-protesters free rein, while employees of businesses located near the fracas told local media that they felt abandoned by law enforcement.

— Jason Wilson in Portland gunfight fuels alarm over growing use of weapons at rallies

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