buruma180_Sean Krajacic-PoolGetty Images_kylerittenhouse Sean Krajacic/Pool/Getty Images

Republican Martyrs

So long as political differences concern interests and ideas that can be reasonably debated, political opponents can be respected, and compromises can be reached. But reasonable debate ends when politics becomes religious, as it has for one of America's two main parties.

NEW YORK – One might well wonder what a pudgy teenager was doing roaming the streets of a Midwestern town with a semi-automatic assault rifle, claiming to be a defender of citizens and property. But that is not what the now 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was put on trial for in November. He killed two men and wounded another, then claimed that he did it in self-defense.

State law sets a low bar for self-defense in Wisconsin, where the shootings occurred. Carrying a gun is lawful, and so is shooting someone to prevent “what the person reasonably believes to be an unlawful interference with his or her person by such other person.” Since one man pointed a gun at Rittenhouse and the others were chasing him, the jury believed that his fear of being “interfered” with was reasonable.

This was not an absurd verdict. One could easily imagine that a black man shooting three white people (all Rittenhouse’s targets were white) might not have gotten off so easily. But that is speculation, and no reason to doubt the jury’s good faith.

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