Kyle Rittenhouse: The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has captured the nation’s attention given the complex and controversial dynamics at play, including race, state of residence, the defendant’s age, and gun rights. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
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On August 25, 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, shot and killed two men—also wounding another—amid the unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse was arrested and charged with multiple counts of homicide and unlawful possession of a firearm. Rittenhouse’s attorneys say he acted in self-defense. His trial began in Kenosha on November 1, 2021. On Tuesday, the prosecution rested its case, and jurors heard from Rittenhouse on Wednesday as he took the witness stand to offer his testimony. Here’s what both sides are saying.
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets do not buy any claims of self-defense. They argue political violence is on the rise, and cases like this condone vigilantism. Moreover, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board uses the case to illustrate why gun restrictions are necessary.
“Kyle Rittenhouse is on trial in Wisconsin, but so is vigilantism” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, MSNBC Opinion: “What’s really on trial is citizen vigilantism. At a moment when Americans’ willingness to use political violence has already skyrocketed, this trial’s outcome risks legitimizing individual violent action and galvanizing civilians who are unhappy with the direction of the country to take matters into their own hands. This is especially true for the political right, who have embraced Rittenhouse as a patriotic martyr. … Vigilantism and political violence are serious threats to the stability of our democracy and the safety of our citizens. Encouraging a heavily armed populace to take matters into their own hands is a recipe for disaster. It is critical that we all draw a clear line around the illegality of vigilante violence and unlawful militia activity — and actively challenge those who falsely frame vigilantism as patriotic defense.”
“Trials underscore the tragic results when civilian confrontations include guns” Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “In Kenosha, Wisconsin, teenager Kyle Rittenhouse was not legally authorized to possess a gun. He brought one anyway to defend a car dealership from Black Lives Matter rioters in August 2020 [ultimately] killing two and wounding a third. … Trials [like these] serve an important purpose to remind Americans of the growing lethality on the streets when more guns are present, especially when civilians take it upon themselves to carry out policing functions. Disputes that might otherwise be resolved with perhaps a loud exchange of words or some flying fists instead end with a hail of bullets and death. The surest way to ensure more tragic results like these is to keep loosening gun restrictions.”
“America should not tolerate vigilante behavior” Nancy Gertner and Dean Strang, Chicago Sun Times Opinion: “In the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin and the men who killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, a claim of self-defense is being expanded into a pass to use deadly force against someone the defendant simply suspects of doing something unlawful. That’s not American law.” Keep reading.
On The Right
Right-leaning commentators focus most of their attention on the argument of self-defense. In fact, they believe the prosecution’s very own witnesses helped drive this point home.
“The Rittenhouse Prosecution Is Not Going So Well” Robert VerBruggen, National Review: “The prosecution’s own witnesses kept saying things that helped the defense. Richie McGinnis, a Daily Caller videographer, testified that the first person Rittenhouse shot had chased him and lunged for his weapon. … Gaige Grosskreutz, the armed man Rittenhouse shot in the bicep, admitted that Rittenhouse had not fired when he had his hands up, and shot only when Grosskreutz’s own gun was pointed at Rittenhouse. … Rittenhouse is on video running away from angry protesters in the seconds leading up to each of the two separate shooting incidents. … To get Rittenhouse on the biggest charges, prosecutors needed to disprove his self-defense claims beyond a reasonable doubt. … I don’t see how they’ve done that with respect to any of the shootings.”
“Rittenhouse’s self-defense claims bolstered by prosecution witnesses” Victor Joecks, Las Vegas Review-Journal Opinion: “In the aftermath of high-profile events such as this, there can be a tendency to treat those involved as avatars for how one feels about the larger issues involved. That’s a mistake. People are individuals and should be judged for their actions. They shouldn’t be deemed guilty or innocent based on group identity. … On the presidential campaign trail, Joe Biden implied that Rittenhouse was a white supremacist. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., tweeted he was a ‘domestic terrorist (who) executed two people.’ … The narrative was set. … But there’s a reason the United States has trial by jury, not mob justice. Sometimes the facts don’t fit the version of events offered by powerful politicians. That’s certainly the case here.”
“Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial is the most bizarre court proceeding ever caught on camera” Tucker Carlson, Fox News Opinion: “Every single witness the prosecution has called so far has wound up making Kyle Rittenhouse’s case for him. According to the prosecution’s star witness, self-defense is exactly what happened here.” Keep reading.
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Self-defense vs. vigilantism is certainly up for debate in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse. So is the larger picture of gun control policy, as mentioned above. “Guns are deeply ingrained in American society and the nation’s political debates,” Katherine Schaeffer writes for Pew Research Center. According to a poll conducted by the nonpartisan outlet in April 2021, “Around half of Americans (48%) see gun violence as a very big problem in the country today,” Schaeffer notes. “That’s comparable to the share who say the same about the federal budget deficit (49%), violent crime (48%), illegal immigration (48%), and the coronavirus outbreak (47%). Only one issue is viewed as a very big problem by a majority of Americans: the affordability of healthcare (56%).”
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