Kyle Rittenhouse walked along the streets of Kenosha in Wisconsin, with his rifle strapped around his chest.
According to the friend, it was intended that the weapon be used for hunting on a friend’s property up North. Rittenhouse said that he carried the Smith & Wesson AR semi-automatic-style semi-automatic along with him on the night of August 2020 because he was volunteering to protect property damaged by protests the previous night. It was used to shoot three people before midnight and killed two.
After a two-week trial Rittenhouse will be tried by a jury. They will decide if he is guilty of the murder charge, which could lead to Rittenhouse being sent to prison for his entire life. Did Rittenhouse, then 17, have to act in self defense to stop crime, as he and his attorneys claim? Or did Rittenhouse provoke the people with his weapon and incite the violence?
It is a similar debate as what has been happening across the country about guns, especially at protests like that in Kenosha, where Jacob Blake was shot by a police officer. Rittenhouse is seen as a patriot who defends an American city against destruction, when police are too busy or unable to do so. Others see a child who loves guns or is looking for trouble.
Rittenhouse, who was still young when he entered Kenosha’s streets that night, was a popular attraction. For a while, Rittenhouse was just another man with a gun.
In the year 2000, many protests were organized in Kenosha to draw counterprotesters or armed militias. Also, protesters were armed, according to Kenosha Police Officer Pep Metta and other witnesses.
Moretta stated that “we were surrounded all night”, adding that “there were probably more people with weapons than we had.”
The shooting took place as the US was battling a coronavirus pandemic. It also came three months after George Floyd, a Black man was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. This prompted violent protests in many cities, some large and small. There was an increase in murders and calls for “defunding the police” as President Donald Trump’s election approached.
Experts say that all of these factors led to an unprecedented spike in background checks for gun purchases and possession, which is a key indicator of gun sales. The FBI’s National In-Depth Criminal Background Check System database reported that there were almost 39.7 Million background checks for gun purchases in 2020 — nearly double the number of guns purchased in 2010.
Rittenhouse was too young to buy a gun. In May 2020, Rittenhouse gave money to Dominick Black, his sister’s boyfriend. Black purchased the Smith & Wesson gun for him. Black testified that the gun was to have been kept safe at Black’s house.
On Aug. 23, a Kenosha officer responding to a call for domestic disturbances shot Blake. Investigators claimed that Blake was armed with an a knife. Protests broke out after the shooting. People set fires and damaged buildings, with some even setting fire to over 100 vehicles that were parked in front of a car dealership.
Black stated that this was when his stepfather took the guns from his garage safe and brought them inside the house.
Rittenhouse, a resident of Illinois, traveled to Kenosha in August 25. Black and Rittenhouse helped to clean up the businesses that were damaged by the unrest before returning to Black’s home. They both took their guns when they went back to the scene of the protests.
Richie McGinniss was the chief video editor for The Daily Caller. This conservative news website had previously worked at protests all over the country. This protest was different due to Wisconsin law allowing some people openly carry weapons. He testified that Rittenhouse made him feel something bad might happen as he followed Rittenhouse around the night.
Ryan Balch claimed that he was carrying an AR-style rifle and that he wore body armor to defend himself against protesters who were arming themselves. Balch, a former Army infantryman, said that he used to patrol streets with Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse told Balch that he was 19 years old and an EMT. Balch thought Balch seemed “a young, impressionable kid” and that he was “a little underequipped, but not inexperienced.”
Gaige Grosskreutz was a protester and volunteer doctor who carried a loaded gun. He is a strong supporter for the 2nd Amendment right of bear arms. He said that it was just like any other day.
Grosskreutz was shot three times by Rittenhouse on that fateful night. He said that he pulled his gun because he believed Rittenhouse was an active shooter. Rittenhouse had already killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber. Grosskreutz had unintentionally pointed his pistol at the 17 year-old, and Rittenhouse fired the shot.
Rittenhouse faces a misdemeanor count of possessing a dangerous weapon by an under-18 person in addition to homicide. He testified that he was innocent and was only defending himself when his rifle fired. Prosecutors claim Rittenhouse, a former police youth cadet, was playing video shooting games and taking his fantasies to the streets.
According to David Yamane, Wake Forest University sociology professor who studies gun culture, Rittenhouse is the face for gun owners in America.
He said that this is a common misconception. Kenosha’s most common gun owner was the father, who pulled weapons from a safe amid unrest. Grosskreutz also carried a concealed firearm as a matter if course.
Yamane stated that while Rittenhouse’s core supporters believe that he did nothing wrong, a larger number of gun owners “are somewhere between.” They are supportive of Rittenhouse’s right at the moment to defend his self, but also feel that he was not entitled to be there. Yamane said that “two people were killed and one injured because Rittenhouse was acting in his best interests.”
Ryan Busse, a former gun industry executive, is now the senior policy advisor to the gun-safety organization Giffords. Rittenhouse is the “avatar” of a customer that the NRA, gun companies, and other gun companies have tried to appeal to. This includes marketing and selling products with names such as the Ultimate Arms Warmonger.
He said that no matter how guilty Rittenhouse is, it won’t change the minds of many people about guns.
Busse stated, “It’s dangerous that he becomes a mascot and a martyr.” “Every Rittenhouse opens the door to what is acceptable. Rittenhouse seems to have moved the window.