Kyle Rittenhouse

Kyle Rittenhouse closes his eyes and cries as he is found not guilty on all counts at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wis., on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. The jury came back with its verdict after close to 3 1/2 days of deliberation.

Like many of you, I watched the Kyle Rittenhouse trial with interest and read many stories from various publications about the case. I wasn’t surprised when the jury found him not guilty of the deaths of two men during civil unrest in August 2020.

But my first reaction when the news came down was to wonder where the next Rittenhouse is right now. Is he or she somewhere in Florida? Is his acquittal validation that a person needs to carry a gun and confront protesters the next time they take to the streets?

Will the heated rhetoric about Black Lives Matter trigger their need to “assist” the police if there’s another demonstration? Or will they decide the police won’t get the job done in those situations, so a Rambo wannabe takes over?

The Florida Department of Agriculture reports the state received 121,272 new applications for concealed weapon or firearm licenses since June of this year. That’s in addition to the more than 2.4 million licenses already issued.

I’m sure Rittenhouse feared for his life when confronted by Joseph Rosenbaum and Joseph Huber in the middle of the chaos. His defense attorney made a powerful argument that Rittenhouse had a right to self-defense.

None of this would have happened, though, if an immature 17-year-old boy didn’t interject himself into that situation. He had no business being there, especially with a borrowed AR-15-style rifle designed for combat. We don’t need armed kids patrolling the streets anywhere. Period.

Rittenhouse is not a hero for what he did, despite efforts from clowns like Matt Gaetz and Anthony Sabatini to paint him that way. Rittenhouse made a terrible situation worse, and the worst may be yet to come.

Florida currently prohibits open carry except in specific circumstances, but Republican lawmakers routinely try to pass that in the Legislature. I imagine they’ll be back, too, maybe as soon as next year.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at the Tampa Tribune.

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