Bernie Rabik: Bad feeling about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

·3 min read
Bernie Rabik
Bernie Rabik

Kyle Rittenhouse managed to convince a jury that he was acting in self-defense. Except, he had placed himself in a bad situation. At 17, he was barely equipped to handle the responsibility of having a gun in a place of chaos and violence.

And Mr. Rittenhouse did not know how to de-escalate tension. When he felt threatened, his solution was to shoot to kill. He could have put down his “cool” gun and surrendered after the first incident. But twice more, twice, he shoots to kill, as if that were his only choice.

Three times this 17-year-old used what should be the last resort of any thinking person. I am not sure life in prison would have been the answer. He was just a kid making adult decisions with a kid’s brain. But he has paid nothing for his actions. The consequences of that will reverberate for years.

While I understand that self-defense can be tricky for a prosecutor, I thought reckless endangerment, at the very least, might stick. Two people are dead and one maimed, with zero accountability.

Even drunk drivers who did not mean to kill anyone are held accountable. They got behind the wheel with alcohol in their system, and Kyle Rittenhouse walked down the street with a semiautomatic rifle over his shoulder – each scenario, a disaster in the making – this one proving, once again, that the law and justice are miles apart.

Kyle Rittenhouse may have prevailed in his claim that he acted in self-defense under Wisconsin law, but what does that say about the state of affairs in America? Is it really OK for him to march down the street with an AR-15 style rifle over his shoulder? Is it really OK for him to shoot demonstrators when they perceive him to be the threat and seek to disarm him?

Where does this all end?

And you can be sure that the extremists on the right will not be so quick to defend the use of semiautomatic rifles or the self-defense claim when it is a left-wing protester or a Black man who shoots someone because he believed that the person was a threat.

The acquittal points to the wide berth the legal system gives to defendants who say they acted out of fear.

My fear is based partly on the degree to which those with positions of authority, such as Judge Bruce Schroeder (Rittenhouse trial judge) coddle vigilantes. The judge went to extraordinary lengths to protect Kyle Rittenhouse. The verdict will embolden other white vigilantes, especially when they learn of the benefits coming to Mr. Rittenhouse: Job offers and potential speaking engagements.

God help us if an unintended consequence of the coddling of vigilantes is that those with reasonable fear begin arming themselves and shooting at the first sign of perceived danger.

Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed two young men as a teen, has the opportunity to deter gun violence through his public words and deeds, or to worsen it by the same. I hope he is mature enough to make the right decision. Either way he, and the country, will reap what he sows.

Bernard J. Rabik, a Hopewell Township attorney, is an opinion columnist for The Times.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Rabik: Bad feeling about the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

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