Kyle Rittenhouse is a Poster Child for Civilian Gun Training

Now that many of the “hot takes” regarding the Kyle Rittenhouse trial have cooled, I am going to slowly try to shed some light on some aspects of the situation I think have gotten less attention than they should. As my friend Robin says, let’s consider the lobster.

Much like the case of George Zimmerman, some people in the defensive gun culture are reluctant to say anything that might be perceived as critical of Kyle Rittenhouse because his prosecution is seen as a threat the right to use lethal force in self-defense.

Although I recognize the need to see the broader legal implications of particular cases, for me the critical silence is unfortunate because there are some clear lessons to be learned from both Zimmerman and Rittenhouse for the average armed citizen – people like me and my audience. Perhaps now that the case is decided, people will feel more at liberty to consider these lessons publicly.

Additionally, the critical silence allows Rittenhouse to be co-opted by the usual suspects on the right who are valorizing him for political purposes. Organizations like the Gun Owners of America, which thanked Rittenhouse for being a “warrior for gun owners,” and talking heads like Ann Coulter, who tweeted an image of comic book superheros bowing in reverence to Rittenhouse.

But Kyle Rittenhouse isn’t a Gun Culture 2.0 hero. He’s a cautionary tale. If he is a poster child for anything, it is for the civilian gun training industry.

Rather than the Gun Owners of America and other political opportunists offering to give Kyle Rittenhouse a new AR-15 style rifle, I would rather see proponents of responsibly armed citizenship offer to give him the kinds of training courses that I have taken over the years. Courses that focus as much on thinking as on shooting. As Rittenhouse himself and mass public shooters routinely demonstrate, the shooting is the easy (or easier) part of the equation, especially if you’re using a rifle.

Among the courses I have participated in or observed over the years that I would recommend for Rittenhouse or those who want to avoid his mistakes are:

*Massad Ayoob’s MAG-40, “Armed Armed Citizens’ Rules of Engagement,” which I characterized almost 10 years ago as “A Humanitarian Approach to Armed Citizenship.”

*John Murphy’s “Concealed Carry: Advanced Skills and Tactics” course (now subtitled “Street Encounter Skills and Tactics”). Among other lessons, students in this course learn how to carry and deploy pepper spray.

*Brian Hill’s “Force Readiness” course, if he offers it again through his Complete Combatant training company. The course focuses on the power of choice.

*Craig Douglas’s Extreme Close Quarters Concepts (ECQC), which offers an interdisciplinary approach to self-defense designed to “give every student the empty-hand skills of an MMA fighter, the firearm skills of a USPSA grand master, and the verbal agility of a stand-up comic.” This last ability is probably the most important one for most people on most days and falls under the broader rubric of managing unknown contacts (MUC). As Douglas says, “A good self-defense course should begin with not letting it get shitty.”

The author with Joe Weyer at Alliance Police Training shoothouse course, November 2018. Photo by Tamara Keel,

*Joe Weyer’s Carbine/Handgun Shoothouse course at Alliance Police Training. The course title is a bit misleading, as I have noted. It ought to be called “Decision-Making with a Gun.” In Weyer’s estimation, the firearms part of the gunfight is only 10% of the equation; 90% is decision-making. As the old saw goes, if you only have a hammer (gun), everything looks like a nail (someone who needs shooting). In our case, the hammer is the least important tool we have.

There are many other great courses and trainers out there, so this list is just a start based on courses I have actually participated in. You can learn more on my gun training industry collected posts page.

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  1. I feel that while what Rittenhouse did was legal, it wasn’t very smart. I think it’s admirable to support your community in a time of crisis but facing an armed mob alone or with a very small group is going to make you a target and I just don’t see that the stakes were worth the risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you followed the trial, you would know that he wasn’t planning to face the mob alone, while a small group of well armed people is not necessarily unsafe if they stick together. Their objective was quite limited. His “mistake” was in helping a protestor, which separated him from his group. It is easy to be an arm chair quarterback in this instance and rule on how smart his actions were, but in a situation where police are held back, the National Guard is not called out, but rioters are attacking people and property, should people who have the means to help deter rioters do nothing?


      • They should do a cost-benefit analysis analysis, which you’d know if you weren’t busy being condescending. There was no visible deterrence happening, nothing that he was responsible for was under threat except by his act of inserting himself into the chaos, he had no training in urban warfare, and a small group is “not necessarily unsafe” but is very likely to be so in a situation where you have an unknown number of armed hostiles around you in the dark who probably aren’t thinking about Rule 4. On that subject, that boy was very, very lucky that none of his shots wound up in bystanders. He’d have had some charges then that self-defense would not have covered. My personal circumstances are different from Rittenhouse’s but with that crap going on in my town I am staying on my block with my neighbors with weapons near to hand but out of plain view. My first responsibilities are to my family and my home, if there’s a mess to clean up downtown I’ll go pitch in in the morning after the orcs have gone to bed.


  2. THANK YOU for this! It’s exactly what I’ve been thinking these past few days. Also, happy to see your suggestions as I’m signed up for Mag 40, Street Encounters and Image Based Decisional Drills Instructor Training in 2022!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Although I think what he did was self defense. He should have never been there in the first place.

    Very few kids of his age have the kind of training required for this in the first place. Or the proper mindset to react appropriately.

    He could have ruined his life forever.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yep, exactly, David. Which is why I am not a fan of Constitutional Carry. If one is to go armed into the night, one ought to know what the bleep one is doing as far as thinking as well as shooting.

    If anyone has not read David French’s Atlantic piece on the Rittenhouse trial, I suggest it as required reading. If I were to write something, it wouldn’t be much different than with Mr. French wrote. Link here:

    Liked by 1 person

    • French makes a couple of assertions not in evidence about the mindset of two of Rittenhouse’s attackers, and I think the right to be present on property you own or are asked to protect to deter by presence is being ignored.

      That is, by definition, not “vigilantism” as no attempt at law enforcement is being made. There is no moral requirement to abandon one’s property to the mob, the “but, but, it is insured” argument, as if that encompasses the totality of the physical, economic, societal, and psychological injury sustained, is no rational nor moral argument at all.

      But, yes, Rittenhouse made some poor choices. He went there to clean graffiti, stayed to defend property and render aid. None of which justifies attacking him simply for his presence, armed or not. All any of the people shot had to do was leave him alone.

      As the prosecution’s rather vapid closing pointed out, no one else was shot by any of the other armed people there that night, because non of the non-shot persons ever unjustifiably attacked any of the other armed people with deadly force.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thing is, Rittenhouse was not at the car place when he was accosted so he was not protecting what the other guys were there to protect. He had left the lot and apparently the cops would not let him go back. So that was another thing he got wrong. Wandering into the night.


      • He had left the lot with others to go to a different site and was offering medical aid on the way, then was separated from Balch and couldn’t make it back to the original site.

        He was headed to a different car lot owned by the same owner to put out a fire there with a fire extinguisher as requested on the phone. I’d have to check the transcript to confirm who he was talking to, but it was part of the defender group he was with. He was at no point “wandering” the night.

        It was at that car lot that Rosenbaum ambushed him.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are more up on those details than I am so will take your word for it. How was he so isolated at the car lot when Rosenbaum came upon him? I simply do not know. I am not among those who think he did anything illegal in being there or even in moving from site to site or whatever else he might have done. I do think he was naive and in way over his head and it ended up costing him — even though he was acquitted. I would submit it cost him even if he wasn’t prosecuted.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, Matthew. Pretty much what that old Times article said. He should have been left alone. If after shooting Rosenbaum, people were confused and thought he was an active shooter, maybe they should have run away. Fog of riot, fog of war.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Let’s keep this simple. Kyle is a decent young man who tried, and did, help some people, and when attacked by mob “elements”, backed off. When his life was in danger, he attempted to get to the police, but was forced to defend. He is now free because he was always innocent, honest, and did the right thing. As he understood.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If you haven’t already had some training, and it’s difficult for you to attend a class soon, read Massad Ayoob’s IN THE GRAVEST EXTREME. Come to think of it, read it anyway!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t agree with Shermer’s association with self-defense with “self-help justice.” He is conflating retribution, punishment of an offender after the fact, which privilege we do in essence surrender to the state in return for the provision of a justice system to handle such interpersonal wrongs in an objective fashion to prevent the blood feuds and the like common in “honor-based” cultures, with self-defense, immediate preservation of one’s own life against an immediate threat to the same.

      That right has never, in all societies of which I am aware, been considered absolutely surrendered to the state, because there is no possible way for the state to provide such immediate defense.

      There is no rational basis to equate force used reactively in immediate self-defense, which may result in the death of the unjust assailant, with deliberately and proactively using force, including deadly force, as a punishment to enforce a moral or legal wrong. It’s an intellectually incoherent position.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I am not sure how many trainers use the slogan about not going to stupid places with stupid people and do stupid things but it sure fits the Rittenhouse case in spite of what he seems to have thought was a noble cause.


  8. I have been thinking about this for a good portion of the day…

    I agree with everything you said, but one of the things that came up during that trial is that at 17, even now at 18, it would be illegal for Kyle Rittenhouse to possess a handgun, let alone earn a concealed carry permit.

    And actually given the nature of the threats he faced, he did a fairly good job of not shooting at people who didn’t need to be shot.

    He did missed the guy who tried to kick him in the head, but he was laying on the ground, facing the guy who was trying to kick him in the head, and he missed. It would be hard to make that shot.

    Most people would benefit from more training, but training is expensive, and it takes time. Two things a lot of people don’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

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