The United States is a nation awash in firearms, and gun owners are a powerful and politically active constituency. In state after state, they have helped elect politicians who, in turn, have created a permissive legal regime for the carry and use of firearms, rules that go far beyond how courts originally understood the concept of self-defense.
These laws have made it difficult to convict any gun owner who knowingly puts themselves in circumstances where they are likely to use their weapon—that is, anyone who goes looking for a fight. It should come as no surprise then, that Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges after shooting three men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020, killing two of them. Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber were killed; Gaige Grosskreutz was injured but survived to testify against Rittenhouse at his trial.
According to Wisconsin law, Rittenhouse need not have proved that he acted in self-defense—rather, the state had to prove that he did not. Even if Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha with a firearm because he wanted to put himself in the position to use it, as David French writes, “the narrow nature of the self-defense inquiry is one reason people can escape responsibility for killings that are deeply wrongful in every moral sense.” Under some circumstances, Wisconsin law allows an individual to provoke an attack and still claim self-defense.
Welcome to America…