I hate guns, but I like the Kyle Rittenhouse story.
I hate guns because too many of them are in the hands of irresponsible people like Kyle Rittenhouse, people who lack the mature judgment to use something so dangerous.
Now by this point, you readers on the left are nodding in agreement. You may, however, want to reserve judgment. You probably won’t appreciate all I have to say from here.
I like the Kyle Rittenhouse story because it’s nuanced. It’s not an easy call and there are important lessons to draw from it. The nuance is valuable in teaching young people that not all things are clear cut.
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Those Kyle Rittenhouse shot weren’t victims
My boys, young men in their teens and early twenties, were drawn to the Rittenhouse story because it involved a guy roughly their age and, no doubt, because it involved a gun.
They watched the video and they thought “Kyle” was innocent.
So, too, did a jury of seven women and five men. The evidence at trial demonstrated Rittenhouse had the right to be in Kenosha with a rifle on the night of Aug. 25, 2020, that it wasn’t a stretch for him show up in a city in Wisconsin when he lives in Illinois.
Kenosha is a hop and a skip from his home of Antioch, Ill. Kenosha is where his father and grandmother and other relatives live. Kenosha, like Antioch, also is home.
The evidence proved the men Rittenhouse shot were aggressors. They attacked him; one even pointed a gun at his head. That gave him the right to respond with force.
The people he shot were not victims. They weren’t great people. That may be why they attacked him. But Rittenhouse couldn’t have known their assorted rap sheets, and that couldn’t have been part of his decision-making.
They were participants in a riot. They played a high-stakes game when they attacked with the intent to harm or possibly kill someone holding a gun. They gave Kyle Rittenhouse license to shoot them. They are complicit in their own shootings.
Rittenhouse was absolved legally, not morally
Kyle Rittenhouse cries while giving testimony
In the end, that absolved Kyle Rittenhouse. Legally.
Morally it did not.
Kyle Rittenhouse is not vindicated. That’s what I’ve told my boys.
Had he done the right thing, the responsible thing, two men would be alive and another would not face a life with a badly maimed arm.
Rittenhouse was stupid to be in Kenosha with a rifle on the night the city burned. Any of you parents who read and doubt that must ask yourself this question: “If my child came to me and told me he planned to carry a gun into a riot, what would I say?”
Had he been my son, I would have told him there’s no way you’re going anywhere near a riot and especially not with a gun.
Rittenhouse showed poor judgement in the extreme, as teenagers are wont to do.
Perhaps no one understands this better now than Kyle Rittenhouse.
If you believe his tears on the witness stand, and I do, he is traumatized by the memory of killing and maiming those men. He now knows the enormous stress of spending months behind bars not knowing if he would spend the next many decades in prison.
His foolhardy decision means he can probably never again live in Antioch or Kenosha, nor can he go out in public without disguise for years to come. His life will be in danger for the foreseeable future.
He invited a world of trouble with his bad decision-making, and while eventually found not guilty, he has paid and will continue to pay a price.
America’s gun problem threatens us all
We’ve got a gun problem in America. There are an estimated 300 million floating around the country, and too many are in the hands of ignorant and insane people. That is a perpetual threat to Americans.
I have no fear of responsible gun owners who know better than I do just how dangerous those weapons are. They care about gun safety. In fact, they take it very seriously. They are not a threat to any of us.
Kyle Rittenhouse was not one of them.
He may have been well practiced at using firearms, but he was not smart enough to keep himself and his gun out of trouble. He did not deserve to have or own a gun.
A jury of his peers have acquitted him. But two people are dead and one badly disabled because he made a terrible decision.
I think he will suffer for years because of it. He deserves that particular punishment.
That’s what I want my boys to know.
Phil Boas is editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic. He can be reached at 602-444-8292 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kyle Rittenhouse went armed to a riot. He should suffer for that