We Must Stop Gun-Carrier Privilege

Every now and then, somebody cuts through all the crap and gets to the heart of the problem. Today it’s Robin Givhan at the Washington Post, Identifying Danger in the Rittenhouse Case. (You can read this entire article without a firewall.)

“As the state wrapped up its case, Kenosha County Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger told the jury, ‘You cannot claim self-defense against a danger you create.’

“This would seem obvious. But all too often, White men with guns do not see themselves as a danger. They cannot fathom that their actions are suspect. They cannot envision themselves as anything but patriotic and godly. Their moral certitude has been so deeply embedded into the collective mind-set that what they choose to protect, whether a nondescript auto center or a vulnerable human being, is quickly presumed to be valuable and worthy of protection. What White men choose to disregard comes to bear the taint of effluvium. As a culture, we are only now disentangling ourselves from this web. The process has been painful and exhausting.”

The issue of “privilege” is hard to grasp for a lot of us, but much has happened lately that makes it visble.

“Rittenhouse, with his youth, is a reminder that this sense of favor and privilege is not just embedded in an older generation. This belief in one’s infallibility, this certainty, has been inherited. It isn’t some relic of the past. It’s alive and vibrant in a generation that is only just coming of age, one that still has the chubby-cheeked roundness of childhood. One that was supposed to be so, so much better. Rittenhouse is a slayer of optimism about the human condition.

“The defendant seemed incapable of stepping outside of himself and considering how he might have appeared to others. On a chaotic and unnerving night, he wore no uniform to announce his affiliation or to make plain to whom he was accountable. He falsely identified himself as an emergency medical technician, according to Binger. He called himself an EMT, but one whose medical bag was a mere speck compared with the size of his gun. He was not a Kenosha business owner. He was a random guy with a gun. He was a loose cannon, a wild card. A danger in the eyes of others.”

I choose to assume Rittenhouse did not go to Kenosha with the intention of shooting someone. He appears to think that it was not his fault he shot three people. They made him do it. They were scary. He can’t fathom that he was scary; he was the one brandishing an assault weapon.

“If people remember any moment from the trial, it may well be when Rittenhouse cried during his testimony. His face contorted with emotion; he gasped for air as he spoke, until the judge called for a brief recess so Rittenhouse could compose himself. But it’s also important to remember that Rittenhouse wept as he described the risk he perceived to his own life. He was crying over the danger that he saw in others. He wasn’t shedding tears over the danger that he posed.”

Firearms are intimidating. When you are walking around carrying an assult weapon in your arms, you are intimidating. Nobody’s going to notice you also have a first aid kit at your side. If you wave the firearm around and point it at people, you are threatening. You are dangerous. People should have a right to protect themselves from you.

“White male Midwestern teenagers have inherited the luxury of not having to step outside of themselves. They don’t have to consciously consider whether their comportment might be viewed as threatening, their carriage suspicious or their demeanor cause for alerting the police. They have the psychic freedom to roam widely, to claim any space as their own. Until, all of a sudden, they don’t.”

It’s not just Midwestern teenagers. Look at the three men on trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. There are many similarities to the Rittenhouse case.

In both cases, the defendants claim they were entitled to start shooting because the victims were trying to take their guns.

“In other words, their own decision to carry a gun became a justification to use it, lest it be wrested away from them,” said Eric Ruben, an expert on the Second Amendment at the S.M.U. Dedman School of Law in Dallas.

Ahmaud Arbery was out jogging. He was pursued and trapped by white men in pickup trucks who assumed he must be a burglar trying to get away, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t carrying anything resembling stolen loot. Arbery was “trapped like a rat,” one of the men told police. Arbery was not armed; the men who trapped him were.

“He was trapped like a rat,” Greg McMichael said, according to a transcript of their recorded interview Nohilly read in court. “I think he was wanting to flee and he realized that something, you know, he was not going to get away.”

Defense attorneys say the McMichaels and Bryan were legally justified in chasing and trying to detain Arbery because they reasonably thought he was a burglar. Greg McMichael told police Travis McMichael, 35, fired in self-defense as Arbery attacked with his fists and tried to grab his son’s shotgun.

Arbery had a reasonable expectation that these yahoos were about to kill him. This was Georgia, after all. Instead of placing himself at the mercy of his assailants, Arbery attempted to defend himself and was killed. This much is plainly obvious.

That was February 23, 2020. The local criminal justice system felt no apparent urgency to treat this killing as a crime. The case was passed around to three different prosecutors. One of the prosecutors wrote a memo saying that the shooting was “perfectly legal,” and that there were no grounds for making arrests. But then on May 5, a video of the shooting went viral on the Internet. The three white suspects were arrested on May 7. Funny how that works sometimes.

Obviously, gun-carrying is privileged. Gun-carriers may point guns and threaten unarmed people. But if those people attempt self-defense with their hands or bodies, it’s okay to shoot and kill them, because gun-carriers are entitled to self-defense. Maybe in theory unarmed people who are shot by gun-carriers have a right to self-defense, too, but since they are dead they can’t speak up for themselves.

And let us not forget Trayvon Martin. Exactly the same thing. George Zimmerman assumed the privilege to judge that a black boy didn’t belong in his neighborhood. And he stalked and threatened Martin until Martin contronted him. And that gave Zimmerman the authority to kill Martin. It was self-defense, see. And the bleeping criminal justice system agreed.

When those assuming the authority and privilege to set agendas, to brandish guns, and to occupy moral high grounds find themselves surrounded by carnage and criminal liability of their own making, that must be really disorienting for them. That’s not how the story in their heads was supposed to end. They were supposed to be heroes. They were supposed to be the ones who set the world right.

Josh Marshall wrote recently,

“Self-defense laws exist because we as a society believe you are entitled to defend yourself with what would ordinarily be criminal violence if you face imminent, grave bodily harm or death. If someone breaks into your home and is threatening to kill you you have the right to kill them first. But if you created the dangerous or deadly situation the calculus changes. Or at least it should. Rittenhouse likely broke some laws being there with the gun in the first place. He was under 18 for instance. But the basic argument here is that Rittenhouse wasn’t doing anything wrong by just carrying around an AR-15. Wisconsin’s an open carry state. The inherent aggression and menace of carrying around high caliber weapons, which we’re told is only a problem for squeamish libs, becomes a path for the person carrying the fire arm to themselves feel threatened and decide they need to use the gun.

“The aggression carries the seeds of justification within it. You show up looking for trouble on yet another of these right wing murder safaris like Rittenhouse, with his mother chaperoning, was taking part in. You’re looking for trouble and when you find it that’s your justification for taking the next step. That’s not how self-defense is supposed to work. But we can see in this case how the interplay of open carry and permissive self-defense statutes do just that.”

This just in:

Kyle Rittenhouse’s attorneys asked the judge on Wednesday to declare a mistrial, saying they received an inferior copy of a key video from prosecutors and would have approached things differently if they had received the higher quality video earlier.

Judge Bruce Schroeder did not immediately rule on the request, which came after jurors deliberating for a second day at Rittenhouse’s murder trial asked to review video evidence.

That was the video showing sweet little Kyle pointing his assault weapon at protesters before being chased by Joseph Rosenbaum, the first man he killed. The jurors, in deliberation, asked to review the video, which must have made the defense nervous.

The nation needs a conviction. The message needs to be sent that being white and well-armed is no longer privileged. Is there a chance the jury will convict? I have little hope of that. It may be the best we can hope for is a hung jury and another trial with a new judge. But we’ll see.

Also, too: A note on the recent fundraiser. The goal has been met, and I won’t nag you again. Thank you so much.

17 thoughts on “We Must Stop Gun-Carrier Privilege

  1. I can't tell you how happy I am the goal was made!  YAY!!!

    White privilege, like the statues of traitorous Confederate leaders, needs to be knocked off its pedestal, and buried in some anonymous hole in the ground.

    As I said in an earlier comment, when a gun appears on the scene, it becomes the center of attention for everybody there.  And every one, and thing, recedes into the background of the picture.  The focus is on the gun.  Friend, or foe? Danger, or safety.  It depends on everyone's relationship with the person who is holding the gun.

    It's almost the same with a movie, or still, camera:  There is NO reality in any "reality" show once everyone knows there's a camera involved on the scene.  The actors play to the camera, and any interpersonal relationships and communications you may have with others, is changed as long as there's a camera present.  Or even the thought that a camera is likely to be recording.

    Kyle needs to go to jail.  Not forever.  But for at least a decade, or thereabouts. 

  2. If Rittenhouse's lawyers are asking for a mistrial today they think they are in trouble with the jury. 

    Step hack and put a larger frame on privilege. Righties are defending the murders because everyone on trial is "a good guy with a gun." But their defense now includes 600 people facing federal charges for the insurrection. These are also "good guys" who should not face jail time for crimes committed when they were defending privilege. 

    It's not what you did – it's who you are. The depth of the conviction that white males (especially rich white males) can't really commit a crime. If you think this is biased or exaggerated, consider this from the news today.

    "Man who raped four teens gets no jail time. Judge says: "Incarceration Inappropriate."  


    This is an example that even judges will sentence based on your status (white privilege) NOT the crime. Is it any surprise that they EXPECT to be vindicated in court?


  3. Doug,

    Is it any wonder that the Reich-Wingers are freaking out on the subject CRT (Critical Race Theory)?

    AKA: Systemic institutional racism.

    Rottenhouse's (sic) case, and that White teenage rapist's case, are case studies of racism inherent in our justice system.

    Blatant inherent institutional racism.


  4. Thank goodness those pesky money issues are  out of the way for a while.  It is not a common wealth without some funds on occasion.  

    So what is the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun?  Does one need a gun to make a citizens arrest?  How does one pay their debt to society after they unjustly took one or more lives?  So many questions which defy any attempt to answer. I just keep going back to Thanatos.

    So you have your monotheists, and then those who do the trinity thing which is kind of cheating on the monotheist notion but they have elaborate metaphysical work arounds.  Either group reviles the Pagans, who they thought just had way too many gods like those Romans.  Well we might be a society with too few gods.  Thanatos in former societies was the god of death.  We might need that god back to explain some of the forces at work in our society, like the forces which accounted for a hundred thousand  overdose related deaths last year.  Or the forces which make us a gun nuts.  

    I checked with my physics expert and he knows of no such forces in physics.  When pressed he did admit he did  not know all the forces in  physics,  and new ones might be found.  He was not too up on the force discovered by Stephen Hawking which let some energy escape from black holes.  This may have relevance as we have so many people who's minds seem to have black holes where their good judgement, empathy, and conscience should be.  Or we are back to metaphysics and the work of those Pagan gods.  

    And for and explanation of that makes Paul Gosar tick, it might take even more gods than the Pagan's had.  I hope that censure does him some good.  



    • What makes Gosar tick? His empathy bit got switched off. He's a dead soul. Whether this is some neurological condition or something else, I don't know. You can clearly see it in his eyes, his face, his contorted body. He is now just living through his samsaras, his conditioning, like a robot.

      Additionally, AOC tweeted that there are just tumbleweeds blowing around in his head. He can't add single digits, she said.

      When he was censured, AOC or somebody should've pointed out that the guy literally has no remorse. Pure sociopath who doesn't even try to hide it (most of them do).

    • So what is the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun?  Does one need a gun to make a citizens arrest? 

      Does a gun make a guy "good"?  If the court acquits Rittenhouse, then apparently by law it does.

  5. Matt Gaetz says he’s open to hiring Kyle Rittenhouse as an intern

    Wow, evidently Gaetz didn't watch Rittenhouse's testimony on the witness stand during his trial. Rittenhouse didn't have enough intellectual capacity to grasp the concept that his toting around of an AR15 posed a threat to safety to all those around him. I realize that Rittenhouse has to dummy up to avoid responsibility for his actions, but when the prosecutor articulated that concept in such clear and understandable terms Rittenhouse showed himself to be either a complete fucking moron or an absolutely evasive liar.

    • Fascist regimes are populated by thugs, dummies, and goons. Rittenhouse isn't that much different from the unqualified people Trump installed. All that matters is loyalty – same as the mafia. The entire point of fascism is being able to get away with whatever the leader wants (this is the same thing that excites Trump's low-brow followers). Rittenhouse is a perfect tool, as is Kevin McCarthy.

    • Rittenhouse didn't have enough intellectual capacity to grasp the concept that his toting around of an AR15 posed a threat to safety to all those around him. 

      Lacking in intellectual capacity makes him a perfect candidate for working in the employ of a republican congressman of the wingnut/loon variety, like Gaetz.

      •  That's a pretty bold assumption on Gaetz's part. Rittenhouse might not want to tarnish his reputation working as an intern for a child sex trafficker. Then again, they just might be a perfect fit considering Rittenhouse's online moniker being… 4doorsmorewhores

  6. The post title is too narrow.  The habit of letting people off the hook is much more broadly and deeply entrenched than that.  It is, all by itself, How We Got Where We Are — which is, as is perhaps the only proposition that can still command general agreement, an unacceptable place.  There are no incremental remedies.  Restoring accountability would require a hard restart, a total break of institutional continuity.

  7. OT, I found a good rejoinder to the "Go Brandon!" taunt: "Go COVID !!" – accompanied by a brief explanation of how refusing to get vaccinated is the equivalent of letting COVID purge the stupid from the gene pool. It's schoolyard nyah-nyah-na-nyah-nyah stuff, but I'm tired of being slapped around by doofuses. If I had the time and was set up on twitter, I'd start a hashtag: #GoCOVID!

  8. The Rittenhouse trial, and what the outcome of it says, given the expected verdict, is just another mile marker as we continue to advance on the road to fascist white nationalism, replacing democracy with authoritarian rule.  A place where a good (white) man with a gun is the highest form of citizenry there is, with respect to rights.  A world where ignorance is virtue, and intellect, common decency and a willingness to do what’s right are at best, liabilities, and at worst, qualities that even kids are being taught to not respect. A world where indecency, lawlessness and even violence is accepted political expression, if you are a right winger meting it out, and especially if a person of color is on the business end of it.  Or, as in the case of Rittenhouse's victims, you are white but seen as supporting the cause of POC.  To them that's just as bad, maybe worse.  Their ideological ancestors had a name for that, which I won't repeat here.

    Without a strong opposition with figures of moral authority willing to put it all on the line, to consistently stand up and speak out, and use what power they have, if the GOP takes control of congress before anything that can be done to slow if not stop their momentum, like passing a Voting Rights bill, it may be game over for generations to come.  And I think the only thing worse than the pain these people will cause will be the pain of knowing, when all this comes to pass, that we had a chance to stop them and could have done something more but didn't.


  9. Unintended consequences of loose gun laws is one of the most sensible arguments being made on the subject.  What was the lawmakers and voter's fantasy when they passed these open carry and concealed carry laws.  Did they really think that the people who would take advantage of these laws would be good, smart, upstanding citizens?  We see now that those who opt to do so are the ones you would not trust with a water pistol.  The lawmaker mind goes weak when the pockets are heavy with gun industry money.  Do not forget the power of those rural votes and those gerrrymandered rural districts with the single issue voters.  

    Do they care if people in urban areas suffer from the law's consequences.  Well no, they rather enjoy bad things happening to those "city folks".  That uppity tribe deserves everything  bad that happens to them.  Only a few rural people understand that this works both ways.  Urban areas now have more and more votes, and when they make laws and regulations that favor urban areas, rural areas really suffer.  This is what happens when you use up all your limited political power passing extreme gun laws.  Your tribe and their tribe both suffer.  It appears over the years that the rural areas are losing this tribal battle.  It takes people to vote, and rural areas have been loosing population and therefore votes.  That rural areas are turning on democracy is probably due to their diminished voting power.  This would not be necessary is they would not waste the political power they have.  The tail is wasted when trying to wag the dog.  

    • We see now that those who opt to do so are the ones you would not trust with a water pistol. 

      Yep. The biggest loudmouths hollering for their second amendment rights are always the last people you'd trust with a firearm. 

  10. This just in: Kyle Rittenhouse was found NOTGUILTY on all counts. He's a free man.

    The blood bath has just begun in a new era. Say you fear for your life, cry on the witness stand, and killing is FREE. 

    A new era of freedom has begun. May the appropriate anthropomorphic deity help us.

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