Is Rittenhouse A Second Amendment Hero?

Sean Krajacic/The Kenosha News, Pool via AP, File

Kyle Rittenhouse’s fate is still being decided as I write this. We don’t know if he’ll walk a free man or spend a lifetime in prison. What we do know, though, is that the left has made a sport of mocking him or vilifying him because of what happened that night in Kenosha. If he’s acquitted, I expect him to be hounded for the rest of his life to some degree or another.

But over at Mediaite, a right-leaning site, at least one of their writers isn’t a fan of Rittenhouse.

Kyle Rittenhouse is on trial for shooting three people, two of them fatally, amid the chaos of the protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The teenager has become a cause célèbre in certain conservative circles, with his claim of self defense embraced by Second Amendment advocates, but Rittenhouse is an extremely poor hero for the gun rights cause.

Only seventeen years old at the time of the shootings, Rittenhouse was a resident of Antioch, Illinois, about 30 minutes south of Kenosha. He testified that he had seen videos on social media of the protests in Kenosha getting out of control, devolving into vandalism, arson, and violence. He did not have a valid driver’s license at the time.

During the prosecution’s cross-examination, Rittenhouse admitted that he knew he did not have a legal right to possess the rifle he used in the shootings, and had given money to his friend Dominic Black to purchase the gun for him in May 2020 and keep it at Black’s stepfather’s house until Rittenhouse turned 18. The young man also testified that he had picked that particular style of gun because it “looked cool.”

However, Rittenhouse still remains morally culpable, despite how his actions have been praised by a disturbing number of commentators, mostly on the right. Fox News’ Greg Gutfeld is one of the more noteworthy examples, going so far as to laud Rittenhouse for doing “what the government should have done” to stop “these violent, disgusting dirtbags” from “roaming the streets.” For a far more prudent contrary view, Quin Hillyer writes for the Washington Examiner that Rittenhouse was a “vigilante” and “at clear moral fault for the two deaths” he caused, having traveled to Kenosha “expecting trouble, and he grievously exacerbated the trouble he found.”

I fail to see how he’s morally culpable for jack.

Let’s remember that while we can argue about the wisdom of going to a riot to try and protect private property, it’s not illegal and is arguably morally justified. After all, this is trying to do something positive for others. That’s universally considered a moral good…apparently unless a firearm is involved.

Yet let’s also note that no one forced the rioters to attack Rittenhouse. No one made them chase him down. No one made anyone reach for his rifle or threaten him with harm, nor assault him with a skateboard–a weapon that has been used to kill before and likely will again.

That was on them, and those are actions that, isolated from any political considerations, pretty much everyone would argue are immoral.

Then again, the author goes on to note that Rittenhouse can’t be a Second Amendment “hero” because he couldn’t have done enough training to comply with what most of us advocate.

The NRA has rightfully been criticized over their bizarre messaging efforts and the organization’s egregious financial mismanagement, but they have developed a national network of certified firearm trainers, and the lessons those trainers impart have a strong focus on safety. Anyone handling a gun at an NRA class is expected to treat it like it’s always loaded, to never point it in the direction of another person or anything other than the designated target, to exercise strict trigger discipline, and to just maintain full awareness and control over the weapon at all times.

This messaging is in direct conflict with everything we know about Rittenhouse, how he obtained his weapon, why he decided to go to Kenosha, and his actions that fateful night.

Rittenhouse bought his rifle because his friend had one and he thought it “looked cool.” Since he wasn’t legally allowed to possess it, his friend held the gun for him. With the gun being purchased the May before the August shootings and being kept away and inconvenient for Rittenhouse to access, he had not had much time to familiarize himself with it. He described how he had purchased the strap for the AR-15 so he could walk around with the gun strapped to his back.

Rittenhouse lived a mere 30 minutes away from Kenosha where the weapon was stored. Just because it was across state lines–a common refrain from many critical of his actions–it was still just a hop, skip, and a jump from his home. He reportedly had a lot of family who lived in Kenosha. That suggests he was in the city frequently.

To assume that over the course of several months, he had no opportunity to familiarize himself with that rifle may or may not hold water. However, the AR-15 is also the most popular rifle model in the country. It seems likely that Rittenhouse may have found opportunities to familiarize himself with such a weapon.

And I think it’s likely he did.

I mean, let’s be brutally honest for a second. With three shots, Rittenhouse put down two of his attackers permanently and previously wounded a third the point that he didn’t have to worry about being attacked. That’s…frankly, it’s kind of incredible shooting, all things considered. It’s well beyond what we see in a lot of police shootings, for example.

To say he achieved such accuracy with no training seems something of a reach.

However, the author does make a valid point at the end. She justifiably argues that many praising Rittenhouse were silent in the case of Philando Castile who was shot and killed by police over a legally owned firearm that wasn’t used in a threatening way. That’s a bit of a fair cop. A lot of people didn’t say squat at the time.

Granted, part of that was waiting to see the whole story because we’d been burned too many times by sensationalist stories, only to find out that there was more to it, but Castile’s case was pretty clear cut well after the facts were known and a lot of gun rights people were quiet about it.

On that, she makes a valid point.

Yet that doesn’t really have an impact on Rittenhouse.

Now, do I consider him a hero of the Second Amendment? Not really, but only because I’m hesitant to use that term. I see him as a kid who was in a very tough situation and who handled himself about as well as anyone could have hoped.

But just because I won’t use the term “hero” doesn’t mean I’m willing to see him dragged.

Dec 08, 2021 12:30 PM ET