Kyle Rittenhouse Isn't a Villain and There Is Nothing Wrong with Open Carry
I’ve known David French for a few years and there are things we agree on and things we do not agree on and this is most definitely the latter. I feel compelled to respond to this.
But there is also an immense difference between quiet concealed carry and vigilante open carry, including in ham-handed and amateurish attempts to accomplish one of the most difficult tasks in all of policing—imposing order in the face of civil unrest. And there is a dramatic difference between the use of weapons as a last resort, when your life or the lives of others are in immediate danger, and the open carrying of weapons as an intimidation tactic or as an intentionally disconcerting display of political identity and defiance.
Open carry is “menacing?” To whom? I’ll agree that in most every circumstance concealed carry is more advantageous for the carrier because you retain the element of surprise. It’s why I typically carry concealed and encourage others to do so. I emphatically disagree however, that open carry is provocative or an intimidation tactic, nor do I think it’s a “disconcerting display of political identity and defiance.” Open carry is no more a disconcerting display of political identity than speaking at a political rally, praying over your meal in a restaurant, or reporting on what’s happening at your school board meeting for your community.
As a woman that used to work evenings in downtown St. Louis when I first started in radio, I appreciated having the option of open carry and still do. In instances of defensive gun usage, the estimated average distance between the carrier and attacker is anywhere from six to 15 feet (as I was taught in numerous defensive gun use classes over the years). I worked in St. Louis when I first began broadcasting and my local station was located at the opposite end of the mall in the Union Station parking lot.
It is a huge, poorly lit lot, mostly empty by the time I arrived to do my program. After my broadcast I’d leave the station alone and walk across that dark parking lot to my vehicle, around 11pm at night on Sundays before I moved to evening weeknights. My arrival and departure were well past the hours of the one security guard that sat at the entry gates, which were open in the evening. Sometimes I stopped to fill up at my neighborhood gas station where it wasn’t uncommon to be approached by people asking for money. My neighbor was once robbed there at gunpoint. It was the closest gas station to me for a few miles, and I do not live in fear, so I will go where I want when I want. In those instances, it served me better as a deterrent to open carry my pistol on my hip while confidently walking across the parking lot or filling my tank at a calm and cool condition yellow. No one bothered me. I did my thing and left. Even though I trained (and still do) regularly, I didn’t want anyone getting anywhere near to my person, much less the average six-15 feet cited in DGU cases in those examples, so my choice to carry openly in those instances was a tactical decision, just as is my choice to carry concealed 99% of the time.
Ultimately, it’s no one’s business how I or anyone else carries, because it’s our right and our right alone to make that assessment for ourselves.
Why is open carry “disconcerting” with Rittenhouse but not with Gaige Grosskruetz or Joshua Ziminski? Both of those adult males were illegally carrying, unlike Rittenhouse who was carrying legally, and Ziminski was the first person to pull the trigger, firing off shots behind a fleeing Rittenhouse, for which he was charged (ironically, this violation of law is exactly what the state suggested Rittenhouse do in their closing arguments). Grosskruetz chased Rittenhouse, as supported by video, and was forced to admit during his testimony that he pointed his gun at Rittenhouse first. Rittenhouse’s rifle in low ready (this is common and not just military or law enforcement) was “menacing” but Grosskruetz running down the street flagging everyone with a loaded handgun, finger on the trigger wasn’t “menacing?”
Rittenhouse’s rifle wasn’t the provocation — the riots, the violence, the arson were the provocations. Setting a dumpster on fire was the menacing provocation. Burning down buildings was the menacing provocation. Rioters nearly killing an elderly man trying to put out the fire they started at his business was the provocation.
Rittenhouse extinguished the dumpster fire started by convicted pedophile Joesph Rosenbaum, infuriating Rosenbaum, who then targeted Rittenhouse and tried to take his gun, according to testimony by the medical examiner.
I don’t care if someone finds open carry provocative — it’s not justification for another to commit a crime. Some on the right are moving dangerously close to adopting irrational perspectives of inanimate objects and yoking the innocent who carry them with the blame for a criminal’s actions. There is a material difference between lawful open carry, brandishing, drawing and aiming. Those who can’t tell the difference, or who choose not to do so for the purpose of undermining lawful open carry by conflating it with criminal actions, do a disservice to the issue. There already exist laws that regulate deviations from said lawful carry.
Most of the right-wing leaders voicing their admiration for Rittenhouse are simply adopting a pose. On Twitter, talk radio, and Fox News, hosts and right-wing personalities express admiration for Rittenhouse but know he was being foolish. They would never hand a rifle to their own children and tell them to walk into a riot. They would never do it themselves.
I’ve discussed this on air and have written about this extensively. I wouldn’t allow my well-trained, similarly-aged son to do so unless necessary because media doesn’t take kindly to conservative teens and also because I would go in his place, being that I’m an adult legally old enough to do things like serve my country, sign a legally-binding contract without a guardian, and, and I have the life experience to better weather the public scrutiny. Of course, all of us might think differently if our neighborhoods looked like Kenosha during the riots. This is irrelevant, though.
Instead of asking why a then-17 year-old was there helping to guard a business and putting out fires, the question should be why the governor didn’t call out the Guard in the same way he is before this verdict. The question should be how elected officials failed to protect the community they represented and made a teenager feel like he needed to go and offer what protection he could as a substitute. My grandfather was Kyle Rittenhouse’s age when he signed up to serve on the USS Alabama in WWII. Men a year older can openly bear arms to fight overseas but not to defend their own communities when rioters are allowed to turn a town into a war zone?
Rittenhouse had every right to be in Kenosha. His father lives there. His grandmother lives there. He works there. His rifle was there too, (not driven across state lines) despite media’s best intentions to turn Rittenhouse’s short 20 minute drive from his mom’s house in Antioch to Kenosha into the modern journey of Odysseus. In fact, you might argue Rittenhouse had more of a reason to be in Kenosha than the rioters from California or Oregon.
It makes no sense that French is arguing against open carry by citing the case of a teenager (the court determined he was legally open-carrying a rifle) who can’t carry concealed because a) how do you carry a rifle concealed and b) he’s too young to purchase and carry a handgun, much less carry it concealed.
No law-abiding person should feel persuaded to forfeit their rights because someone harbors an irrational fear of the inanimate object they possess. A person’s comfort level doesn’t determine the extent to which a right can be exercised. If you dislike open carry then carry concealed, but no one has the right to determine for others how they may lawfully carry.