When the verdict of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial was left to the jury for deliberation, there were five charges on the table for Rittenhouse’s possible conviction as punishment for his actions in Kenosha, WI, this past August. There was one count for first-degree reckless homicide for his killing of Joseph Rosenbaum, two counts for first-degree recklessly harming safety for him firing at two people who were not struck by bullets, one count for first-degree intentional homicide for him killing Anthony Huber, and one count for attempted first-degree intentional homicide for his shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz, who was not killed. All of these charges deal with the actions that Rittenhouse did with an AR-15, but none of the charges had anything to do with the fact that he was carrying an AR-15 as a minor in the first place, something that is illegal in Wisconsin as well as in countless other states across the country.
Wisconsin state law explicitly states, “Any person under 18 years of age who possesses or goes armed with a dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.” The law defines a “dangerous weapon” as any firearm, metallic knuckles, nunchucks, or ninja stars. Looking at only this part of the law, it would be obvious that Rittenhouse violated this law, since an AR-15 is indeed a firearm, but there are some exceptions to the law, one which the defense successfully argued that made Rittenhouse appear to have not violated this law.
The first exception that is listed is if a minor is using a weapon for target practice under adult supervision, so this exception clearly does not apply to this case. Someone can also be exempt from the law if they are using a weapon on duty as a member of the armed forces or the National Guard. Rittenhouse is part of neither of these groups, so this exception does not apply to him either. The exception that was used by the defense is one that exempts certain types of weapons. This exemption was originally intended for minors who would want to use a weapon for hunting, since only certain types of firearms are used for hunting, but since it does not say anywhere explicitly in the law that his exception only applies for the purpose of hunting, the defense was able to use this subsection in the context of this trial.
Rifles, short-barrelled rifles, short-barrelled shotguns, and shotguns are the only firearms that minors are technically not allowed to possess in Wisconsin, according to the subsections of the law. The defense argued that since an AR-15 is a long-barrelled gun, being over 16 inches long, then Rittenhouse did not violate Wisconsin state law by open-carrying an AR-15 in Kenosha. They ignored the fact that an AR-15 is a rifle… it’s literally in the name of the gun, and for some reason, the prosecution failed to realize this fact and argue it.
The truth is that there was a charge originally on the table for Rittenhouse unlawfully carrying a gun. This charge would have been arguably the easiest for the prosecution to prove, an argument so easy that I, someone who has not been to a day of law school, was able to construct. The reason that this charge was not brought to the jury for deliberation was because the defense put forward a motion that eliminated this charge, because they knew that this charge was the easiest to prove, and Judge Bruce Schroeder sustained this motion, eliminating any possibility for Rittenhouse to be convicted for this charge. Since the prosecution could not even piece together an argument for a charge of which Kyle Rittenhouse was clearly guilty of committing, it should have been obvious well before the verdict was issued that he would walk from the trial as a free man.