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Hunting laws allowed Kyle Rittenhouse to carry weapon during fatal shootings in Wisconsin, lawyers say

Prosecutor Thomas Binger dismissed the defense argument, saying Rittenhouse's attorneys should tell a jury he was "hunting on the streets" in Kenosha.
Image: Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of shooting three people during a protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last year, waits for a motion hearing on Oct. 5, 2021, in Kenosha, Wis.
Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of shooting three people during a protest against police brutality in Wisconsin last year, at a hearing Tuesday in Kenosha, Wis.Mark Hertzberg / Pool Photo via AP

Attorneys for Kyle Rittenhouse, who is charged with fatally shooting two people during a protest in Wisconsin last year, argued that hunting laws allowed him to carry the assault-style weapon used during the shootings.

Wisconsin law prohibits anyone under age 18 from being armed, but Rittenhouse’s attorneys argued that state laws only forbid minors to carry short-barreled rifles and shotguns. The other prohibitions pertaining to children fall under hunting laws, which say children under age 12 can’t hunt with guns, Rittenhouse’s attorneys said at a hearing Tuesday.

Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Illinois, was 17 on Aug. 25, 2020, when he fatally shot two men and wounded another man while carrying an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at a protest prompted by a police shooting of a Black man, prosecutors have said.

“There appears to be an exception for 17-year-olds,” defense attorney Corey Chirafisi said, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger responded that if the defense wants to tell a jury that Rittenhouse was only hunting, it should do so.

“They can submit evidence that the defendant had a certificate to hunt and he was engaged in legal hunting on the streets of Kenosha that night,” Binger said, according to the newspaper.

Binger declined to comment Wednesday. Chirafisi could not be immediately reached for comment.

Rittenhouse is charged with homicide, attempted homicide and being a minor in possession of a firearm.

Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder denied a defense motion to drop the weapons possession charge, saying that state statutes were “unclear" and that he wanted to review the laws and could revisit the matter later.

On the night of the deadly shootings, Kenosha was in the throes of several nights of chaotic protests after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake in the back during a domestic disturbance. Blake was paralyzed below his waist.

Rittenhouse’s trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

The high-profile case is considered a touchstone of the summer of protests in 2020 after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.

Rittenhouse’s case has proved polarizing. Some conservatives and advocates of gun rights have hailed him for standing up to protesters. His supporters raised $2 million for his bail in November. Critics have called him a domestic terrorist who aggravated a volatile moment while acting as a vigilante.

Rittenhouse left his home and traveled to the Kenosha protest after a local militia posted an online message seeking help protecting businesses from demonstrators, prosecutors said.

Rittenhouse fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum in the parking lot of a used car dealership. Moments later, he fatally shot Anthony Huber. And seconds later, he shot and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz, prosecutors said.

Also Tuesday, John Black, who Rittenhouse’s attorneys said is a use-of-force expert, spoke about how Rittenhouse used self-defense in the shootings.

Black testified that video shows Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse and reaching for his gun, Huber attacking Rittenhouse with a skateboard and trying to wrestle away his gun, and Grosskreutz running at him with a pistol in his hand.

“A citizen in that position, given those indicators, would it be reasonable for them to believe they were about to be assaulted?” Black said. “I would argue yes.”

Rittenhouse’s attorneys want Black to testify at the trial. Schroeder refrained from ruling on the matter Tuesday.