Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges related to his actions on August 25, 2020, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Three men ambushed the teen as he provided security, fire-fighting services, clean-up, and first aid during the riots that ravaged the city for over a week. One of the attackers was armed with a handgun, another attempted to bash Rittenhouse’s skull with a skateboard, and a third tried to wrestle the rifle from his hands. All three were shot, two fatally. No innocent bystanders were injured.
This should have been a classic self-defense case; Rittenhouse should have been hailed as a hero, a model for others to follow in times of crisis. Instead, the anti-gun, anti-freedom, and anti–self-defense hysterics have come out in large numbers to denounce the verdict and the Second Amendment.
Adding to the din is perennial candidate and consistent political failure Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, who used the incident to renew his call for a ban on semi-automatic rifles and bolster his chances in the Texas Democratic Party gubernatorial primary. In an interview with CNN, he claimed,
This entire tragedy makes the case that we should not allow our fellow Americans to own and use weapons that were originally designed for battlefield use. That AR-15, that AK-47, has one single, solitary purpose, and that is killing people as effectively, as effectively, and in as great a number in as little time as possible.
O’Rourke’s pithy statement reveals that he, like too many others, simply doesn’t understand the basic precepts of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. At the foundation of a free society is the core principle that individual citizens have rights that government exists to protect. “We” don’t “allow our fellow Americans” to do anything; they exercise their rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness regardless of how much it may upset presumptuous, would-be tyrants.
The right to our lives implies a right to defend that life – and the lives of other innocent people – against the criminal class. To this end, the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution, enshrining “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” – including semi-automatic rifles. Early American statesmen wanted everyone to be armed like a soldier.
Inadvertently, O’Rourke stumbled upon a valid point. Weapons like AR- and AK-style rifles were designed for battlefield use. But sometimes the “battlefield” is right at home. Policemen and soldiers exist, but that does not mean individual citizens surrender their right – and duty – to protect themselves and others should the need arise. What if soldiers and policemen stand aside, or become overwhelmed, as they often did during the riots last year that wracked much of the country?
In The Medieval Village, author G. G. Coulton wrote that in Old England, from which our legal institutions and traditions are derived, “every man was his own soldier and his own policeman.” When confronted by a criminal, citizens need to protect themselves; confronted by a mob bent on murder and destruction, citizens join in a collective effort to thwart evil. It has happened many times before: in Los Angeles in the early 1990s; in New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina; in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2015, just to name a few. Kyle Rittenhouse, and many others, went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year to exercise collectively the individual right to bear arms for the defense of persons and property.
The Rittenhouse case exposes other falsehoods found in the leftist worldview. For example, the Second Amendment was (and amazingly, still is) dismissed by anti-gun fanatics as somehow protecting only a “collective” right to arms – that somehow “the people” exercise this right only when organized in a militia. O’Rourke and others have launched a critique of the citizen militia in Kenosha (and elsewhere), despite the fact that in such scenarios, individuals are acting in concert, as a militia. One would think that leftists would celebrate this “correct” exercise of the Second Amendment.
Worse yet for the authoritarian crowd is this paramount detail: Rittenhouse did everything right. According to retired Navy SEAL Johnathan Gilliam, Rittenhouse’s response to the attack was “textbook perfect.” He fired only when attacked, and no innocents were killed or injured. The fact that he used a “long gun” must conjure additional agitation and alarm for the anti-gun left. Supreme Court justices reviewing a semi-automatic rifle ban in the future will have a concrete, high-profile example of how effectively private citizens can use such weapons to defend themselves.