Rittenhouse: Not guilty doesn't create a license to be stupid.
I don’t have to quote tweets from both sides here. Just visit Twitter and search #Rittenhouse. Or go on Facebook. Or just watch the news. They’re all wrong, okay?
It took four days instead of four hours, but as I expected, Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts by a Wisconsin jury, as all the news media in America is now doubtless taking sides on the issue.
Many will say this is a dangerous “message” to people who like to cosplay as soldiers, complete with working rifles and lots of ammunition. They say these “playtriots” will continue to show up at protests and peaceful demonstrations, provoking those who are advocating for justice into defending themselves, and therefore increasing the odds of bloodshed.
Some will say that Rittenhouse was looking for a fight, and only the flaws in Wisconsin law, which allows for some provocation in presenting a self-defense argument at trial. Some will say that the judge was hopelessly biased toward the defense and against the prosecution.
On the other side, gun rights organizations will make hay, saying it’s a “victory” for ordinary citizens just looking to defend themselves from organized, armed groups of thugs brought in to create havoc in residential neighborhoods. Some will cheer Rittenhouse as a patriot, a soldier in the culture war, a hero.
Far-right political talking heads looking to throw red meat to their audiences will boast how “we” can throw our AR-15s over our shoulders and march proudly to counter the violent threat of Antifa and planned riots where police stand back while bused-in crowds set fire to local businesses and encourage looting.
I don’t have to quote tweets from both sides here. Just visit Twitter and search #Rittenhouse. Or go on Facebook. Or just watch the news. Turn to MSNBC and see them howl at the judge for banning them from the courtroom (their stringer decided to stalk the jury). Turn to CNN and see them concern-troll everyone on how armed tiki-torch bearing racists will attack peaceful BLM marchers. Turn to Fox News and see a different reaction. Turn to OANN if you can bear to watch.
They’re all wrong, okay?
This was a single case, and in this case, the prosecution clearly overreached, and clearly fell short. The case literally fell apart on the notion that Rittenhouse had a duty to retreat, when the facts showed he was trying to retreat. It was a good try to claim Rittenhouse was illegally in possession of a long gun, but the law was so poorly crafted that even the judge couldn’t piece it together, and there was no agreement on how to instruct a jury of “ordinary citizens” on how to apply the law. So the charge got tossed.
In the end, the jury found it totally reasonable that Kyle Rittenhouse, or any ordinary citizen in his position, would justifiably use deadly force to prevent great harm or death to himself. I mean, one of the guys attacking him pointed a gun at his head. Another tried to take his loaded rifle from his hands. Another hit him in the head with a skateboard.
The prosecution had a hard case to prove, and didn’t prove it. That’s all this case was about. Legally, Rittenhouse was found not guilty, and legally, I believe he deserved to be acquitted.
Now that doesn’t play to the larger issue going on out there in the news. Rittenhouse’s acquittal does not create a license to be stupid. It does not give anyone a reason to go out and make a straw purchase (illegal!) of a rifle and carry it loaded over their shoulder, even if open carry is legal in your state or community.
It doesn’t make dressing up as a playrtiot and slinging an AR-15, or an AK-47, or even a .22 rifle like you’re some soldier walking down the street or eating at the local Waffle House “cool.” No. It’s stupid. If you hunt, keep your gun unloaded, breech open, trigger-locked, and in the case, or locked in the rifle rack in your pickup truck. Keep it there until you’re actually, you know, hunting. Otherwise, you’re stupid, and you’re looking for trouble.
If you decide to open carry to a protest that’s not in the neighborhood where you live or own a business, you’re stupid. Kyle Rittenhouse did not give you the license to be stupid. Nobody did.
If you decide to go and join a protest, armed, you’re stupid. Protest all you want, but carrying a gun to a protest has the real potential to turn it from a constitutionally protected gathering to a bloody riot. Why would anyone want to do that?
On the other hand, if you own a business and a bus load of protesters gets off, joined by a number of actual thugs armed with Molotov cocktails and bricks, ready to break windows, encourage looting, and burn your business, you have every right to stand out front armed with a long gun. Especially if the police create a “line” with you on the “sorry bud, we’re out” side of it. You have the right to protect your property and life. Kyle Rittenhouse did not give you that right; he enjoyed that right despite being stupid.
It’s better sometimes to retreat in the face of living with being a killer to defend a warehouse full of inventory versus saving your life and the lives of those who are themselves being stupid. The standard here is “what a reasonable person” would do, at least that’s the legal standard. The higher (and better!) standard is “am I being stupid?” Kyle Rittenhouse did not give anyone a “get out of stupid free” card.
Now I’ve seen busloads of protesters set up in front of a camera, waiting for the cameraman to set up just the right shot, then they start committing violence and burning cars. It happened on January 20, 2017 at Donald Trump’s inauguration. I was there. I walked through the intersection where rioters burned a limousine and broke windows before they did it. While the cameras were being set up, and the on scene producers asked the protester organizers where they could get the best shots, the bused-in crowds milled around hurling occasional insults at inauguration attendees, but remaining peaceful. Then on cue, they rioted.
This does happen. If Rittenhouse was found guilty, those activists who pay to bring in rioters would gleefully use it to as a pretext to force business owners and home owners to retreat from their own property so they could burn it and have CNN reporters stand in front of the flaming ruins declaring a “mostly peaceful” protest.
But Rittenhouse was found not guilty on all counts, which as I said, I believe he deserved, legally. Nobody should take that as a cue to go around doing what Rittenhouse did. It’s not a pretext to stand outside businesses in neighborhoods where you neither live nor work, nor own property, armed to the teeth, waiting for someone to attack you so you can kill them. If you do, expect the next trial, where you are the defendant, not to go the way Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial went. Expect yourself to win a lifetime supply of prison soap, prison blankets, and prison chow. Because you were stupid.
Kyle Rittenhouse was stupid, but not guilty. He doesn’t give you a license, on either side, to proclaim victory, or riot because of injustice. He gives nobody a license to be stupid. Kyle Rittenhouse was stupid, and gets to go home and live a life burdened by causing the death of three people. Don’t think he’s going to live happily ever after.
Don’t be like Kyle Rittenhouse. Don’t be stupid.
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Also, don't count on the local laws in your area (or another state you head to play action hero) to be as poorly written or as forgiving as the ones in Wisconsin that allowed Rittenhouse to play G.I. Joe on the streets of Kenosha.
Mob behavior is unpredictable. Some people do things they would never otherwise do if they took a brief moment to think it over. That's why peaceful protests often do not remain peaceful when large crowds are involved. I think protests should be shut down at the first sign of looting, violence, arson or violence. Easier said than done unless crowd size is restricted and a serious peacekeeping force is present. I would expect outrage because my opinion would be seen by some as taking away free speech and the freedom to assemble. It's really not much different in principle than background checks for weapons purchase.