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Sanchez: Kyle Rittenhouse is now a pawn

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Mary Sanchez

Mary Sanchez

Kyle Rittenhouse went looking for trouble.

America, in its adoration of firearms and a legal system that leans heavily into an individual’s right to cause harm over the collective safety of many, replied.

Yes, you can be a mere child conjuring an image of yourself as the heroic savior in a volatile scene where only highly trained adults should roam. You can claim a self-designated role as a medic even though you have no such expertise. And yes, you can go ahead and strap on a weapon sufficient to enter a foreign battlefield under heavy fire.

A sympathetic judge will render the illegality of you even possessing such a firearm as a 17-year-old a moot point, as happened when the judge dismissed that misdemeanor charge against Rittenhouse.

And the legal system will cover you when the worst happens: Bullets fired by Rittenhouse killed two people that August night in Kenosha, Wisconsin, unleashed by a scared kid who never should have been there in the first place.

This much will never change: Rittenhouse took a Smith & Wesson AR-15 style .223 rifle and ended the lives of two people who were strangers to him, people who he could have avoided completely.

He is a killer. And his third victim, another man he shot but not fatally, could be permanently scarred by the trauma.

Rittenhouse will not pay the penalty of a prison sentence for these actions of 2020. His full acquittal on all five felony charges guarantees it.

Wisconsin is not that unusual. Many states have similar underpinnings; loose open carry laws, folks ready to take to the streets armed and self-defense laws that offer them much latitude to act in violence.

Given how self-defense laws are shaped in Wisconsin with a heavy burden for prosecution, the outcome was somewhat predicted. Prosecutors needed to debunk his claims of a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm. And they needed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Yet Rittenhouse is not getting off without penalty.

Until he chooses otherwise, he’s a pawn.

At this point in time, not 24 hours past his acquittal, it’s a draw to see who among those arguing for Rittenhouse as their mascot will cause the most harm. Or if someone can use his case for a greater good.

Team Kyle’s-A-Hero stepped up quickly. They were at his side throughout the ordeal. Ever since this immature teenager was emboldened to act when Kenosha was thrown into nightly chaos by rioting; fires and other destruction that broke out after a white police officer shot a Black man seven times in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that man, Jacob Blake, is a victim too. What a horrible placeholder; to be the person whose viral run-in with police subsequently tripped so much other violence.

Rittenhouse has already agreed to appear on Tucker Carlson Tonight and to be a part of a broader documentary that will likely pitch a vigilante-stirring message. That’s a deep thread of the Kyle as a hero narrative. The one that says anyone who was in Kenosha that night on behalf of Black people being harmed by police under questionable circumstances — was in the wrong. And therefore, anything that happened to them — even their deaths at the hands of an irresponsible teenager with a long gun — is laudable.

But let Carlson pitch that horrible, race-baited message. He’s well-practiced.

Rittenhouse could serve a better purpose. A type of stepped back, thoughtful assessment of the states and their various laws around self-defense could occur. Stand Your Ground, which negates the necessity to retreat when it’s an option to avoid bloodshed, exists in many.

There are those who will cite this case as a reason for higher rates of gun ownership, seeing the verdict as a justification for Rittenhouse being heavily armed. Negated is the fact that his gun helped cause the situation. He feared the protesters would wrestle it away and shoot him with it.

Rittenhouse did encounter a dangerous situation that night. The last man that he shot, the one who lived, was armed, as were many people who were out roaming those streets.

That’s not something to replicate. It’s a main reason that he got away with murder, exonerated of the charges because Rittenhouse was able to legally argue that he feared for his life.

We need to question: how many states are setting themselves up for a similar scenario?

Over a span of decades, loosened gun laws toward open carry serves the mindset of those praising Rittenhouse and vigilante justice.

Unless he matures quickly, which seems unlikely, it’s a good bet that Rittenhouse will be taken advantage of, promoted as a righteous man when in fact, he’s a mixed-up kid. And a killer.

Readers can reach Mary Sanchez at msanchezcolumn@gmail.com

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