The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

compassion, kindness

verdictI’m trying to contextualize the disappointing but unsurprising Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.

One part is Mark Evanier’s tweet. “And one day soon, someone of a different political view and/or race will do what Kyle Rittenhouse did and all the folks cheering today’s verdict will be screaming, ‘Rule of law!'”

There is a 2021 article in Slate that I found intriguing. “Black gun rights advocate Kenn Blanchard says Black Americans shouldn’t be scared of the Second Amendment.”

And of course, many African-Americans are afraid. Race DOES permeate the politics of gun control. Think of the death of Philando Castile, who announced to an officer at a traffic stop that he had a gun in his car. He ended up dead, and that continues to gut me.

I’m left to speculate what would have been the reaction by law enforcement to a young black male running through the streets of Kenosha, WI with an AR-15. Perhaps he would have ended up dead like Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. He was a good black man with a gun trying to end an Alabama mall shooting.

But Kyle Rittenhouse, running through the chaotic streets with an automatic weapon, goes past law enforcement without incident. As a Boston Globe columnist noted: “You can be a vigilante when your mission is to serve the system.”

STFU

Much has been made of the judge’s rulings during the trial. For the most part, I concur. Yet there is one aspect that I have to agree with him. The fact that Rittenhouse had not made public comment before the trial should not have mattered. Moreover, when the prosecution suggested that this was an issue, and the judge reprimanded the state on Fifth Amendment grounds, it hurt the case. It was prosecutorial ineptness.

In this blog back in 2014, I wrote: “If I am ever in a situation that would involve the criminal justice system – whether as the victim and/or witness or defendant – I will not comment on what I might testify about until the trial is over. I won’t talk about it, and I certainly won’t blog about it.”

Very few things irritate me more while watching the news than having  Lester Holt, or whomever, saying, “X is breaking their silence.” It’s as though talking about testimony to the press before the trial is what one is SUPPOSED to do. I do not buy it.

As a practical matter, shutting up is probably better. Alec Baldwin spoke after the shooting death of the cinematographer for the movie Rust. When he talked about how well-run the set operated, he may have made himself vulnerable to civil liability.

polar bear

With God on his side

It fascinates me that the two folks on my Facebook feed who clearly supported the outcome put it in a Christian context. My old neighbor Greg says the verdict was “Absolutely beautiful totally innocent! 100% self-defense.” He bashed the “bleeding hearts”, and ends with “so good for Kyle excellent praise God.”

As someone who has been reading a lot of the Old Testament recently, there’s a lot of stories of the people of Israel preparing to invade other folks. Start with Joshua 1, for instance.

But this is not the Christian theology I believe in. I’m more of a Colossians 3:12 kind of guy. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” That would mean, in my mind, not becoming a Stand Your Ground provocateur.

Constitution Day 2015

Eliminating birthright citizenship… It implies a reckless urge to break down ancient legal principles without inquiring why those traditions existed in the first place.

Close up of the Constitution of the United States of America with quil feather pen
Close up of the Constitution of the United States of America with quill feather pen

Constitution Day is tomorrow, so I found some articles from the previous 12 months, pulling out quotes, to commemorate it. I suggest you read the whole article.

Civics For Dummies: Judicial Review
People who dislike particular court rulings often imagine that this power of judicial review wasn’t in the Founders’ original vision at all; somewhere along the line the Supreme Court just usurped it. But in fact, the Founders foresaw judicial review and approval.

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment
“‘One loves to possess arms’ wrote Thomas Jefferson, the premier intellectual of his day, to George Washington on June 19, 1796.” What a find! Oops: Jefferson was not talking about guns. He was writing to Washington asking for copies of some old letters, to have handy so he could issue a rebuttal in case he got attacked for a decision he made as secretary of state. The NRA website still includes the quote. You can go online to buy a T-shirt emblazoned with Jefferson’s mangled words.

Opinion analysis: Reasonable mistakes of law by police do not violate the Fourth Amendment
The vague word “unreasonable” in the Fourth Amendment is a lawyer’s playground, and questions about what sort of circumstances constitutionally permit law enforcement seizures have thus plagued the federal courts since the Fourth Amendment was adopted.

Arizona, the Supreme Court and the End of Gerrymandering
In the fullness of time, it all wound up in litigation, in a wrangle over the definition of the word “legislature” that eventually reached the Supreme Court. What is a “legislature,” exactly? Is it a body of elected officials? Is it a body appointed by the people to perform a specific legal purpose? Can it be both?

Nothing Is More “Conservative” Than Birthright Citizenship
Make no mistake, eliminating birthright citizenship would require an overthrow of established traditions. It implies a reckless urge to break down ancient legal principles without inquiring why those traditions existed in the first place. In short, it requires precisely the sort of thing conservatives are supposed to be against.

The Five Worst Supreme Court Justices In American History, Ranked
Even amidst this dark history, certain justices stand out as particularly mean-spirited, ideological, or unconcerned about their duty to follow the text of the Constitution.

K is for Killing

The current debate over gun violence likely will not be ended so easily.

 

My church, First Presbyterian Church in Albany, NY, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. The church donated some artifacts to the Albany Institute of History & Art, itself founded in 1791. The Institute has an exhibit, ongoing through April 17, showing some of the church history over the years.

Some of the church members included John Jay, eventually the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; and Aaron Burr, third Vice-President of United States, and the first NOT to go on to become President.

After Burr killed Hamilton in a duel in 1804, the pastor Eliphalet Nott delivered a jeremiad against dueling. As it was a particularly long and significant sermon, it was published by the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany. (I listened to the re-enacted speech a few years ago.) Eliphalet Nott had the remarkable effect of, almost singlehandedly, effectively ending what had been considered an “honorable” way for gentlemen to settle their differences.

The current debate over gun violence likely will not be ended so easily. The solutions seem to be fewer guns on one side, more guns on the other. The latter group clings to the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The notion of a militia, to me, seems to be a state-run National Guard.

In any case, here’s a list of murders with firearms (most recent) by country. And here are twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States. Nothing here, I suspect, will change anyone’s mind about the next steps to take. No Eliphalet Nott sermon will save the day anymore.

ABC Wednesday – Round 12

Another day, another mass shooting

After President Reagan was nearly assassinated in March 1981, there was a “commonsense” limit on assault weapons, but that law lapsed nearly a decade ago.

When I first heard about the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it wasn’t until about noon on Friday, December 14, a couple of hours after the horrific event. After lunch, I spent about three hours listening to the online reporting, first on NBC News, then ABC News. I figured if I kept following it, perhaps I’d discover they’d gotten it wrong. And they had – it wasn’t 18 dead children, it was 20. The wrong brother was initially named as the shooter. The basic framework, though, remained terribly the same.

Sometimes, when people don’t like a piece of entertainment, they’ll say, “I threw up a little in my mouth.” A crude reference, I think. But, following this story, I literally DID.

My sorrow over the particulars of the story was made worse by the inevitable statements that we need to have a national “conversation” about gun control and mental health. Except that, for some, it’s not the right time; apparently, it’s NEVER the right time, because we’re always reeling from the last event. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said, correctly, “If now is not the time to have a serious discussion about gun control and the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our society, I don’t know when is.”

After President Reagan was nearly assassinated in March 1981, there was a “commonsense” limit on assault weapons, but that law lapsed nearly a decade ago. Even before then, we’ve ALWAYS been having “conversations” about these things; we TALKED after the 1999 Columbine, high school shootings in Colorado, and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, and the Arizona shootings last year, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooters this past summer.

The “conversation” after this latest event thus far is more of the same. Why are mass shootings becoming more common? Some say we should have MORE people carrying guns. Yeah, right, against a guy in a movie theater wearing body armor packing heat, in a dark theater, with smoke bombs; heard THAT argument rehashed Friday night on CNN. At least I didn’t hear anyone suggesting five-year-olds should be packing heat.

More noise: Mike Huckabee uselessly telling us that school “carnage” caused by having “removed God” from schools. Ultimately, I think the Onion got it right.

Here’s my position: the Second Amendment right to bear arms is no more absolute than the First Amendment right to free speech. One cannot yell “fire” into a crowded building; one ought not be able to fire into a crowded building.

I’m done talking about it. If we don’t DO something, I don’t want to listen to more of the same rhetoric when this happens the next time. And there WILL be a next time, with the number of guns in this country.

The one thing I’m still mulling over: how to tell my elementary school-age daughter. She’ll surely find out from her friends. I don’t want her to be afraid to go to school. How do I make her feel safe, even though I can’t promise her it couldn’t happen again?
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Newtown shooting: Names, profiles of the 27 people killed.

Happy memories of Newtown, from the town children’s librarian from 1994-1996.