The verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial still leaves our society with a number of unresolved social issues and unanswered questions. My biggest question is why was a young man that age permitted to purchase the kind of weapon designed to kill a maximum number of people in a short time? What possible reason would he have for the possession of such a weapon if not to kill people? Why does our society permit such ownership?

I don’t like guns but I’m not against responsible ownership for hunting or target practice or, in extreme circumstances, self-protection when a person can demonstrate a credible danger to one’s person or one’s family’s safety. I see nothing alarming with young people owning .22 rifles for hunting and target practice provided they have taken and passed a gun safety course and understand that their gun ownership depends on following all the safety rules. Failure to do so should result in the person losing gun ownership privileges for some years into the future.

My uncle and grandfather were avid gun owners who hunted birds every year. They also belonged to a gun club where they shot clay pigeons. I can’t claim they were continually safety conscious. My grandmother continually complained about finding shotgun shells in Grandpa’s pockets and emptying his pockets onto a basket on his dresser. I was always warned to leave them alone and not handle them. They gave me toy guns to play with and insisted that I never ever point them at a person even though they were just toys. Failure to obey this would mean I’d lose the toy. I had a toy pop gun that, when the gun was “loaded” and the trigger pulled, would make a popping noise. The cork never left the barrel of the gun. Later, when I received a cowgirl outfit, it came with a pair of toy pistols in a double holster. I never had any interest in owning a real gun.

Later, in my married life, my mother gave my grandfather’s .22 rifle to my husband. We sometimes used it for target practice by throwing something for a target out into a field that had a hill behind it to catch the shells. Later, when my husband suffered from depression, I insisted he sell that and get it out of the house. I wasn’t taking any chances.

In a recent year, there was a shooting in my neighborhood a block or two up the street from where I live. I found it very disturbing to know that happened so close to my house. I never learned the eventual outcome of that incident. I hope that gun is somewhere far away now, preferably locked up in a gun vault.

I fully realize that guns aren’t the only deadly weapons readily available. One of my kitchen drawers contains several of them as does my basement workbench. I don’t own a baseball bat or club. When we take on the responsibilities of parenthood, it is part of our job to teach our children safety in all its forms. As we grow from childhood to adulthood, we are taught that we are responsible for our actions and must pay the price of ignoring safety rules that we have been taught.

Rittenhouse was responsible for his actions and the results, whether justified or not. Someone his age and lack of maturity, should never have been approved for a gun permit in the first place, especially the kind of gun he possessed. All states need to examine their gun laws and put tighter restrictions on who can possess weapons of mass destruction like the one Rittenhouse possessed. I also ask, where were his parents in all this? Where were the people who approved his permit? Rittenhouse obviously was too immature to possess such a weapon. He is not a bad person. He is just too young to have acquired the judgment needed to act properly. Some responsible adult should have realized this and prevented this tragedy.

Harding lives in Pullman and is a longtime League of Women Voters member. She also has served on the Gladish Community and Cultural Center board. Reach her at lj1105harding@gmail.com.

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