In this Dec. 20, 2021, file photo, Kyle Rittenhouse speaks at a panel discussion at the Turning Point USA America Fest 2021 event in Phoenix. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / AP

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The recent trial of Kyle Rittenhouse highlighted an increasingly frequent problem: vigilantism. We witnessed its threat to lives and property last January in the attack upon the Capitol, incited by the false claims of a rigged election by Donald Trump, former president turned vigilante-in-chief.

Although a strong case existed for the jury’s acquittal of Rittenhouse on grounds of self-defense, he’s hardly the “hero” possessing “fortitude” that letter to the editor writer Jean-Rene Long describes. The latter first creates a straw man by stating erroneously that “law enforcement was told to stand down,” then uses this inaccuracy — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers actually summoned the National Guard to supplement local Kenosha police — to justify a 17-year-old crossing state lines and using a deadly weapon to “bring this country back” from collapse.

Usually parents admonish a teenager for even considering bringing a gun to a situation that law enforcement seeks to control, for fear of an untrained, impulsive youth provoking a response that endangers police and civilians. Moreover, Rittenhouse’s departure from the courtroom with a wide smile on his face after inflaming civil unrest and killing others should horrify every citizen. Both federal and state elected officials must reform the laws governing armed individuals intervening in potentially explosive events.

Dave Witham