MSNBC Legal Analyst Lashes Out Over Self-Defense

MSNBC’s slanted coverage of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial has spilled over onto the opinion page of the New York Times, where former state and federal prosecutor and current NBC/MSNBC legal analyst Tali Farhadian Weinstein has weighed in with an unhinged screed against self-defense and the Second Amendment that’s so over-the-top I had to make it the subject of today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co.


According to Weinstein, the fact that a jury found Rittenhouse not guilty of all charges filed against him in the shootings of Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and Gaige Grosskreutz is evidence that the laws surrounding self-defense simply aren’t compatible with a country that recognizes the right to keep and bear arms. No, seriously.

A claim of self-defense when you are caught on tape shooting people, as Mr. Rittenhouse was, is predictable. This case was never a whodunit. Instead, Mr. Rittenhouse’s team had to explain why his shooting three people, killing two of them, were not crimes. And what put him in imminent danger serious enough to justify his use of deadly force, according to Mr. Rittenhouse, was the presence of his own gun. Recalling the final moments of his decision to fire at Joseph Rosenbaum, Mr. Rittenhouse testified: “I remember [Rosenbaum’s] hand on the barrel of my gun.”

As a prosecutor, I have often seen arguments like these during investigations of police officers who have shot and killed unarmed people. In those cases, the officers cite their fear that their own weapons would be used against them. From an armed civilian, this claim is different. Instead of distancing Mr. Rittenhouse from or minimizing the effect of his weapon, Mr. Rittenhouse and his lawyers built their case upon it: Because he had a gun, he found himself in a situation where he needed to use it. In other words, the gun he carried was not a deterrent, but the very reason for the escalation to violence.


Ms. Weinstein is entitled to her own opinion, but that doesn’t mean she gets to come up with her own set of facts. And the fact is that the Rittenhouse defense wasn’t based on an argument that because the teen was armed that night he found himself in a situation where he needed to use it. Instead, it was that Rittenhouse posed no threat to anyone, never acted aggressively, and in fact tried to de-escalate the attack by Joseph Rosenbaum by running away from the man.

The escalation to violence, in other words, came from Rosenbaum himself, not Kyle Rittenhouse. But Weinstein doesn’t stop there. Nor does she call for sweeping changes to self-defense laws, even though she seems oddly troubled by the fact that those claiming self-defense still enter a courtroom with a presumption of innocence. Instead, the legal analyst has come to the conclusion that the real problem is the fact that we have a right to bear arms at all.

Another problem for Weinstein? The New York public defenders who recently argued that the state’s “may issue” carry laws should be overturned by the Supreme Court as a violation of the Second Amendment. Weinstein calls their amicus brief in NYSRPA v. Bruen “strange and disheartening” without ever considering that maybe she’s the one with the extreme point of view.

The public defenders argue that, historically, permits have been issued unevenly, and that still today, in many places, it is easier for whites and members of the middle class to get permits than it is for people of color and the poor. And they argue their clients should have guns just like other Americans do. In other words, the progressive left has met far right in describing dangerous streets and the need to be armed on them.

Theirs is not a legal argument, but a political one, and is unlikely to sway a Supreme Court focused on the text and original meaning of the Constitution (though the court may find it a useful fig leaf if it decides against New York). It is meant to shock, and it does, in its nihilism — a nihilism that echoes the far right champions of the men we have seen on trial. Instead of taking guns out of the hands of the Rittenhouses and McMichaels of the world, these progressive public defenders want to level “up”— to make guns more readily available to their clients, to all of us. Their vision, if realized, would make the self-defense claims of Mr. Rittenhouse and Mr. McMichael unremarkable, not only in red states, but across the country.


Self-defense claims should be unremarkable, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to lead to an acquittal. In fact, Weinstein’s reference to Travis McMichael proves that point. Just because someone starts with a presumption of innocence doesn’t mean that they’re guaranteed to be found not guilty of shooting someone. What matters is the weight of the evidence.

The audacious position taken by these New York public defenders should give pause to anyone tempted to understand, and maybe even discount, the Rittenhouse and McMichael defenses as essentially conservative arguments playing to conservative juries in conservative states. If we start to think of guns only as a problem in the hands of the Other (white supremacists, the far right, criminals), we will miss the simple fact that unregulated guns escalate violence across ideological lines. Their presence tends to create a need for self-defense on both sides of the trigger, about which the law has very little to say. If Mr. Rosenbaum and Mr. Arbery did indeed reach for those guns, weren’t they, no doubt, acting in self-defense? More guns, no matter in whose hands, will create more standoffs, more intimidation, more death sanctioned in the eyes of the law.

Yeah, can you believe the “audacity” of public defenders who don’t believe that people should be labeled violent felons and sentenced to years in prison for the “crime” of keeping and bearing arms without a government-mandated permission slip?


I believe that Ahmaud Arbery was in fact acting in self-defense. Joseph Rosenbaum, on the other hand, appears to have been the initial aggressor in the Rittenhouse case. Facts matter here, unless you’re Weinstein, whose lazy argument that more guns will lead to more mayhem completely ignores the fact that violent crime (including homicides) were on a remarkable downward trend from the early 1990s until just last year, even as the number of Americans lawfully carrying a firearm in self-defense skyrocketed to more than 20-million.

I don’t know what NBC is paying Weinstein for her legal analysis, but it’s way too much. If the suits at NBC were smart, they’d replace her with one of those public defenders she’s so disappointed in. Then again, this is the same network that ended up barred from the courthouse in Kenosha, so Weinstein is far from the biggest issue facing the liberal news outlet.

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