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Jerome Christenson: There’s a Kyle on every corner

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Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

Teenaged boys do dumb things.

It’s in their genes. Given the choice between wise and responsible and exciting and adventurous it’s gonna be binge drinkin’, car surfin’ and general hell raisin’ darn near every time. With veins pumping a heady dose of adrenaline and testosterone, urged on by a couple Red Bulls and an illicit beer or two he’ll exhibit all the considered judgement of an 8-week-old puppy on a sugar high.

And that’s on a school night.

I know. I was a teenaged boy once.

And survived.

No thanks to me, that’s for sure. Nor the wise counsel of my buddies, who also thought it was a swell idea to try to break the land speed record between Houston and Caledonia. Late at night. In the rain. Seatbelts are for sissies.

We did dumb things, but by dumb luck, the grace of God, good fortune or a grumpy adult grabbing us by the collar to shake some sense into us, our lives went on. Some kids aren’t so lucky.

Take Kyle Rittenhouse, for example.

By now pretty much everybody’s heard about the Antioch, Ill., teenager turned vigilante whose life, in an instant, took an irrevocable turn on a dark night in Kenosha, Wis. A dumb kid with a gun discovering that real life isn’t at all like video games and cosplay. Two dead. One maimed. A teenager facing a life defined by a 6 by 8 prison cell.

The verdict really is irrelevant. The tragedy had already happened. Is happening.

Teenaged boys do dumb things. Kyle Rittenhouse is a teenaged boy.

Every year nearly a thousand teenaged boys are accused of doing the same sort of dumb thing as Kyle Rittenhouse … taking a gun and killing people.

For one reason or another they don’t get the same prime time/front page treatment Kyle got. Just too many of them, I guess.

But then, what should we expect when around 16,000 teenagers are charged with possessing guns it’s not legal for them to have. With that many kids breaking one law, who should really be surprised when some of them go on to break another?

Then again, living in a country with nearly 400 million firearms in private hands; where more than one third of kids grow up with guns in the house; and one in five guns are sold without background checks, is it any wonder than a kid who gets a notion to get a gun has little trouble getting his hands on a gun.

Often with tragic results.

Every day we can expect nine American kids to be killed by gunfire … and for every kid killed, five more are wounded, with black kids four times as likely to be shot as white.

We can argue until eternity comes if Kyle Rittenhouse was a “good guy with a gun” or a “bad guy with a gun.” It won’t change anything. What is beyond arguing is that Kyle Rittenhouse was a teenaged boy with a gun — a gun the law and common sense says he shouldn’t have had.

From all I understand, Kyle’s not a particularly clever kid, to get that gun he didn’t have to be. He just needed a 20-year-old cosplay buddy to buy it for him. The rest, as they say, is history.

Only in America — or possibly Yemen or Syria, Afghanistan or some other violence-saturated corner of the world — could that happen. The rational civilized world has long since recognized that people with guns kill other people more easily and much more frequently than people with knives, spears or stone axes and have taken the reasonable, logical step of putting the kibosh on every Tom, Dick, or Harriet wandering around with a .45 stuffed in their pants or stashed in the hall closet.

When the guns went away, so did the bloodshed.

How long will we put up with a Kyle on every corner?

Nine dead kids every day. When will enough be enough?


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Michael Paul Williams — a columnist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch — won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary "for penetrating and historically insightful columns that guided Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city's monuments to white supremacy."

What a seismic difference a trial has made to public and media perceptions of Kyle Rittenhouse. When he was charged at age 17 with shooting three men, two fatally, during racial unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year, various media accounts described him as a rifle-toting white supremacist who drove across the border to shoot Black Lives Matters protesters in the racial unrest that followed ...

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