Is The Rittenhouse Trial A Turning Point In The Gun Control Debate?

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News via AP, Pool

Closing arguments are underway in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but the arguments for and against the right to bear arms spurred on by Rittenhouse’s arrest on murder charges will continue long after the jury announces a verdict.

I realize that’s not exactly a controversial statement, given that the same arguments over our Second Amendment rights were underway for decades before Kyle Rittenhouse was ever born. Still, the Associated Press seems convinced that the Rittenhouse trial could be a turning point in the gun control debate.

For a lot of people, Rittenhouse is the face of gun owners in America, said David Yamane, a sociology professor at Wake Forest University who studies gun culture.

But that is a misconception, he said. In Kenosha, the more typical gun owner was the father who took weapons out of a safe amid unrest, or Grosskreutz, who carried a concealed pistol as a matter of course.

And while Rittenhouse’s core supporters believe he did nothing wrong from start to finish, a much larger group of gun owners “are somewhere in between,” Yamane said. While they support Rittenhouse’s right to defend himself in the moment, they also think he had no business being there, and that “two people died and one person was injured for no good reason.”

I wouldn’t label Grosskreutz as a more “typical” gun owner, given that he was illegally carrying his pistol the night that he was shot by Rittenhouse, but I get the point that Yahane is trying to make. While Rittenhouse was far from the only armed citizen on the streets of Kenosha on the night of August 25th, there were also many more hunkered down in their homes in case the rioting, looting, and arson reached their block.

As for Yahane’s argument that many gun owners believe that Kyle Rittenhouse had no business being in Kenosha that night, he should also mention the fact that the rioters had no business being their either. In fact, the armed citizens who showed up to stand watch over businesses were reacting to the riots and looting.

The Associated Press then spoke to the gun control lobby’s new golden boy (sorry, David Chipman, but you’re yesterday’s news).

Former gun industry executive Ryan Busse, now senior policy adviser to the gun-safety group Giffords, calls Rittenhouse the “avatar” of a customer the NRA and gun companies have been appealing to, including by marketing and selling products with names like the Ultimate Arms Warmonger.

Among much of society, whether Rittenhouse is guilty or not guilty won’t change anyone’s minds about guns, he said.

“What’s dangerous is he’s going to become a mascot or a martyr,” Busse added. “Every time there’s a Rittenhouse, it moves the window of what’s acceptable. I think Rittenhouse has moved the window.”

I know that the gun control lobby is pushing Ryan Busse as one of their fresh new faces, but the media needs to do a better job of fact checking every statement that comes out of his mouth. The Associated Press failed to inform its readers that the Ultimate Arms Warmonger, a 50 caliber BMG sniper rifle, is not currently sold on the commercial market, as the Ultimate Arms website makes clear with this disclaimer:

The Warmonger 50 cal. BMG Sniper Rifle is currently available to the Defense Department only at this time. Another model of the Warmonger 50 cal. will be available for commercial use at a later time.

As for Rittenhouse being the “avatar” of the customer base of the NRA and the firearms industry, there’s no indication that Kyle Rittenhouse was or is an NRA member, and he testified about wanting a rifle because he wasn’t old enough to carry a handgun. The teen also testified that he didn’t know much about the AR-15 platform or various types of ammunition, but that doesn’t exactly fit with the gun control lobby’s narrative that he was lured into carrying a gun because of the incessant marketing messaging from gun companies.

Busse says that gun owners will turn Rittenhouse into either a mascot or a martyr, depending on the jury’s verdict, but he leaves out the other side of that equation; the fact that Busse’s compatriots have already decided that Rittenhouse is the villain, and that won’t change no matter what verdict is returned by the jurors.

It would have been nice if the Associated Press had actually spoken to any pro-Second Amendment voice for its story on how the Rittenhouse trial will impact the gun control debate, but instead they delivered a one-sided commentary promoting the gun control lobby’s messaging without offering any gun owner or 2A activist the chance to respond. Generally a debate features both sides of the argument, but when it comes to our right to keep and bear arms far too many media outlets are unwilling to give equal time to those defending that right. So yes, the gun control debate will continue after the Rittenhouse trial is over, and gun owners are still going to have to deal with the biased and slanted coverage to come.