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Posts published in “Day: November 14, 2021”

Rittenhouse II


Kyle Rittenhouse had the right to take up arms. He had the right to bear them to Kenosha. He had the right to join the the leaderless group of mostly white guys who likewise exercised their right to bear arms in a sea of tension, heated protest and riot. A court will now decide if Kyle Rittenhouse had the right to shoot two men dead and injure another.

The most maddening part of discussing a person like Kyle Rittenhouse with staunch Second Amendment supporters is how that right — God-given right, as many falsely claim — supersedes every other consideration. In other words, if a person chooses to bear arms in any situation, so be it. No responsibilities or considerations matter other than that basic right to bear. “All I saw were clean shots,” they remarked on Rittenhouse’s kills. It never enters their minds that those “clean kills” could’ve been avoided if an amateur, untrained, unskilled teenage boy hadn’t appointed himself a de facto police officer in the midst of a chaotic, violent racial protest action.

Let me make one thing clear: I don’t particularly care if Kyle Rittenhouse is convicted. I hope the court is bold enough to make a statement on the matter, brave enough to suggest that perhaps those who choose to bear arms might also consider details like, skill, training, maturity and restraint when inserting themselves into situations where their choice to bear arms might result in the taking of human life.

I believe Kyle Rittenhouse is an immature kid who put himself in a situation way over his head. If the court decides he is guilty, he should pay. If not, for God’s sake, I hope the court will make some sort of statement emphasizing the responsibilities that come with a right as serious as taking up arms.

I have questions for the people who see the right to bear arms as a right with few or no responsibilities.

Just because you can, does it mean you should? Just because you want to exercise your right to bear arms, you should do it? Does the desire to exercise your right take precedence over all other considerations? Does the right itself supersede careful consideration and common sense? So any bozo who wishes to exercise his Second Amendment right to bear arms in a situation like Kenosha shouldn’t be questioned or second-guessed because the right itself is sacrosanct? Are people really that stupid?

I was schooled in firearms at a young age. I got my first rifle before the age of ten. By my early teens, I was a crack shot. I suck at a lot of things but, for some reason, I can aim a firearm. Contrary to what many people think, I am not opposed to the Second Amendment — but I believe any decision to handle a tool designed specifically to kill comes with certain duties. I believe the right to bear arms comes with inarguable responsibilities. I do not believe anyone can just grab a gun and go enforce laws in the chaos of racial unrest.

By the time I was 17, I was proficient with firearms. Most adults would’ve considered me a good example of a teenager who could handle guns. I came of age in the 1980s, a period which saw little unrest in the U.S. but if a violent uprising had occurred near me, I could’ve exercised my Second Amendment right to grab one or more of my guns and place myself in what I believed to be a defensive position of enforcing laws that protect property.

But I would’ve been an impetuous fool to do so.

I was the last person who should’ve joined a group of vigilante gunmen with no leader, no command structure, no real-time accountability.

Kids shouldn’t be arming themselves and wading into highly-charged situations of racial unrest. The 55-year-old me sees this clearly but the teenage me might’ve been eager to save the day. I was a 17-year-old kid who was proficient with firearms so why not me? Why not? Because I was a teenager who was utterly unschooled in using firearms in law enforcement or martial capacities. I was a teenage boy with all the maturity, self-control and wisdom of — wait for it! — a teenage boy. Teenage boys have no business appointing themselves armed arbiters of law and justice in scenarios of racial unrest or riot.

It seems so obvious to me.

Where 2A purists see clean kills in Kyle Rittenhouse’s actions, I see a heavily armed kid who shouldn’t have had the opportunity to make clean kills, dirty kills or anything in between. Rittenhouse certainly had the right to bear arms but I do not believe he had the right to appoint himself a de facto law enforcer.

Among the dozens of armed white men who answered the call of Kevin Mathewson’s Kenosha Guard group were a number of men who actually did possess training and experience in quelling crowd violence — do such men really see value in inexperienced teenage boys running around with high-powered weapons, policing angry throngs?

And here’s another concern: shouldn’t a person taking up arms to defend against lawbreakers, himself, be hyper-cautious in respecting the law? The same people who claimed Rittenhouse’s kills were “clean shots” diluted the teenager’s taking of human life by listing the previous transgressions of those Rittenhouse slaughtered. One of them, for example, was a mentally ill sex offender, therefore his death was apparently acceptable.

So let me get this straight: A teenager can appoint himself the armed arbiter of justice, meting out the ultimate penalty when he takes another man’s life. Where I would expect proponents of the Second Amendment to have a profound respect for justice and the taking of human life, instead I see them diluting the law to excuse the teenage killer because his victims did some bad stuff at other times and in other places. I’m sorry but this is a regression to frontier justice which has no place in a civilized society.

I support the Second Amendment but it’s a right accompanied by responsibility. I even understand that, in extreme circumstances, civilians might need to take up arms to defend their property. But such actions should be carefully considered and undertaken by people with proficiency in handling firearms and the maturity to do so with control and restraint. And if, for some reason, an open call for gunmen is issued, wouldn’t it make sense for some sort of rudimentary command structure to be implemented so teenagers like Rittenhouse aren’t put on the front line?

Really, it all boils down to one thing.

Heavily armed teenage boys like Kyle Rittenhouse have no place policing angry crowds fueled by a rage he doesn’t even begin to understand.

The Second Amendment should not be an unlimited license for inexperienced, unqualified kids to appoint themselves armed law enforcers in the chaos of riot.

EDITORIAL NOTE: There is some ambiguity regarding Rittenhouse’s weapon. First, Rittenhouse’s 19-year-old friend purchased the weapon for him and stored it in his house in Kenosha so the gun didn’t actually cross state lines illegally. Second, while prosecutors have charged Rittenhouse with one misdemeanor count of possession of a dangerous weapon under the age of 18, defense attorneys suggest Wisconsin hunting laws actually allow Rittenhouse to carry the weapon. But the legal thinking seems to be that this argument is a long shot. Ultimately, the court will decide.

A former food and wine writer, senior editor of two regional food-and-beverage magazines and one of four or five remaining moderate republicans, Matthew Meador switched to writing political commentary because it allows him to be grouchy now that he is no longer paid to eat, drink and be merry. In a previous life, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt also was rumored to have lurked around the Oregon state capitol building where he learned the cost of getting bill drafts to the front of the line in Legislative Counsel was no more than a plate of cookies — who says there’s no corruption in state government?

A solid credit score


Of course you missed it because, well, good news never gets the play it should. But a recent report shows Idaho took another jump upward in its state credit rating, from AA+ to AAA, one of only a few states in the nation with that superior designation.

Naysayers will either downplay the rating or ignore it because it doesn’t fit their narrative of “Drain the Swamp” in Boise. But the new rating from Fitch shows Idaho is already doing many of the prudent, responsible, and fiscally conservative practices which mark it as a national leader.

Public entity credit ratings are somewhat like individual ones. They reflect both savings and spending habits, measured by such metrics as policies, stability of reserves, careful and planned cash flows as well things like political environment, conservative social policies and rainy day set-asides. (FitchRatings, 11/4).

Stability of policies is an important trait, as it reflects long-term intent by governing bodies. Increasingly, states are being held to “social” behavior when it comes to investing and debt. States which have long ignored these basic measurements, pay higher borrowing rates than prudent states like Idaho.

It’s not unlike your personal credit rating. Potential lenders look at things like your driving record, your debt-to-income ratios, and your lifestyle patterns in determining the amount and rate of your loan application. Some are very strict; others not so much.

In a statement on Fitch’s Idaho report, Gov. Brad Little credited Idaho’s long history of solid economic and responsible patterns of public finance. Think for a minute what your bank would say if you came in for loan but had a credit rating that wasn’t at a high enough level. They would tell you to find ways to cut costs, increase revenue, or both.
And they would look at your history of credit over time, whether you’re buying a new car, a mortgage on a new home, or an operating loan for your farm or commercial business.

Without good credit, your chances of getting a loan you want would diminish, just like it would in your personal history.

This is yet another reason why Idahoans should look past the “Sky is Falling” rhetoric of far rightists running for public office. If you listen carefully, they really don’t have any idea of how to grow the state economy or the necessary investments needed for long-term stability.

We should expect our candidates to demonstrate clear and forward-looking proposals rather than simply whining about what a terrible life we have here down here on the farm. It is truly amazing in the state where solid credit is such an important fiscal feature that so many Idahoans would pay any attention to the charlatans on the right.

And it’s a good exercise to think about Idaho’s economy in the future if we were to elect these folks. You would likely see Idaho’s economic progress stall and then go into reverse. What national business would want to come to a state led by nativist and racist prejudicial politicians, by legislators who cruelly and willfully outed a sexual assault victim? What business now here would long stay if these were our faces on national television?

And what about businesses that may be looking to come to Idaho? They’ll quietly drop us from the prospect list like a hot potato if they see the state’s leaders exhibit such demeaning positions. It would be great to be a fly on the wall listening in on a conversation between business executives and Janice McGeachin, Priscilla Giddings or Dorothy Moon trying to recruit them to Idaho. Good luck with that.

The Fitch rating for Idaho as AAA is both a mark of our past diligence as well as a reality check of where we could go with extremist political leadership. A vote for these folks is to send Idaho backward, along with its stellar credit rating.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at