For the record, my information relies on videos of the event and on the New York Times careful reconstruction of events, which Mr. Quinn calls “fairly evenhanded.” Be that as it may, here is my analysis of this awful episode.
Mr. Rittenhouse started the evening with other gunslingers guarding a car lot but unfortunately got separated from the others and some time later found himself in another car lot, which is where his troubles started.
He was clearly the focus of much wrath from others present, though I’ve seen no speculation as to why Rittenhouse inspired such anger. As he says in one video, his intentions — laudable — were to protect property and, as en EMT, aid the injured. His rifle was for self-defense. So why did so many people all at once turn on him? Did he punch or insult someone? Unlikely: this well-spoken young man doesn’t seem the type. Could it be his white skin? No, his assailants were white as well.
No, it was surely the rifle he carried: no grouse-hunting pea-shooter but an AK-47 worthy of an Hawaii-5-0 episode. It symbolized something that the others reviled, which was someone who had taken it upon himself to keep them in line.
And then the fateful concatenation of events: a shot fired, Rittenhouse whirls, a man runs forward throwing something at him, Rittenhouse shoots four times, and not at the fellow’s leg. He tries to call someone — a friend, according to reports — and then runs away.
The next sequences available show Rittenhouse still running, and lot of people are after him. But now it’s different: Rittenhouse has just murdered a man and, to any impartial onlooker, seems to want to put plenty of pavement between himself and the crime. People bravely try to stop this rifle-toting youngster. One woman carrying her handbag runs up behind him and swats him in the head. Rittenhouse would have done well to shout that he was trying to turn himself in to the police up the street, but again that massive gun would have hurt his credibility.
And then the climax. Rittenhouse falls, and from a sitting position shoulders his gun. It is not clear to me that he gets a shot off. But no matter: a pursuer overruns him, knocking him backwards. Another guy — not a pursuer — runs up from behind him and whacks him with his skateboard. Rittenhouse is now lying prone on his back. If it had been me in that position, I would have grabbed the guy’s leg, brought him down, and given back as good as I’d got. But Rittenhouse had his hands full — of an automatic rifle, with his finger on the trigger, the safety off and the bullets already bought and paid for. So he shot the man in the chest.
Then another fellow comes running up with a handgun, clearly to shoot this dangerous and panicked young man, but he draws too slowly and Rittenhouse puts an admirable shot through his gun arm. The others wisely scatter after this.
With great satisfaction both Whitney and Quinn note that all three men Rittenhouse shot, two fatally, had criminal records. If they hadn’t — if the third man had been a Marine captain with four tours of Iraq under his belt — this would have tarnished the story. But the three were what they were: dispensable scum whose deaths had no more importance than a fly’s, much like the baddies in, for example, Hawaii 5-0.
I sympathize with young Rittenhouse. He is obviously a decent guy but with a twisted idea of public responsibility. He can’t possibly be declared innocent, but his youth and the circumstances certainly extenuate his murders. He was clearly as much a victim of that gun he carried as the people he shot, both because it made him a target and because it conferred on him the idea that it was his only defense, rather than his voice, his wits and his fists. Which is a commonality among gun-carriers: skewed judgment. That weighty chunk of steel inevitably brings out the indignation, arrogance, and power in a person. Officer Rusten Sheskey had a right to pull his gun on Jacob Blake — which started the Kenosha riots — but then he put seven bullets in Blake’s back when one in the foot would have done the trick. There’s the rub.
Rittenhouse is a perfect example of why guns ought to be banned. Other shots are heard in the background of those videos of him, and I’m sure lots more will be heard in videos to come. Probably someday soon everyone will come to those riots packing a piece and a couple clips for good measure, and then it’ll be just one big jolly free-fire zone, Second Amendment guys on one side and “anarchists and communists” on the other, a final showdown between Right and Left, a video game come true. I’m looking forward to it — but I live in Spain, where guns are largely banned, the future of the white race is of no concern, and we watch with sadness while America descends into chaos.