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Kyle Rittenhouse should pay dearly for taking the lives of two people, but he should not pay alone.

Kyle Rittenhouse should pay dearly for taking the lives of two people, but he should not pay alone. All the lying accomplices who made a bogey out of Antifa and ginned up the crowds to defend the police (to defend the police!) should be sitting right alongside Mr. Rittenhouse. For there’s no doubt that he acted alone, but little doubt that anyone could have acted in isolation when the confrontation occurred in August 2020.

There’s plenty of blame to spread: the anti-gun faction who saw the AR-15-style rifle he was carrying and immediately declared him guilty-by-gun-nut, and all the Trump-blind gun-nuts who declared him not guilty for the same reason. Somewhere in the middle was a 17-year-old who made an awful decision and who, in 2020, had the firepower to make it a deadly one.

Now we hear the biographies of the victims and feel sick. Two men who, had they not lived in a society that turns assault weapons into fetishes—would still be alive. The injured survivor lives in constant pain, mental and physical. For the shooter himself, at the age of 17 he has murdered two men. And even if the jury finds that he did so in self-defense, he will remain the 17-year-old who murdered two men.

This cannot be fixed after the fact. Few things can. We either do what we can to prevent it, or we throw our hands in the air and excuse it because we live in a divided society. And if we choose the former, then inflammatory public figures like Marjorie Taylor Green and Paul Gosar need to have their public platforms rescinded; in other words, they need to be removed from Congress. No censure, no impeachment—just erasure. Since their raison d’etre is needling the opposition and proving that even sophomoric people can land a government job , it’s time for them to get out of the way and let the actual legislators do some work.

Granted, we have always had idiots in government, and Green and Gosar may be merely the tip of the nothing-berg, but because they model violence and vindictiveness, we can no longer delude ourselves into believing that Kyle Rittenhouse is a one-off, not since the pandemic has increased gun sales, and some states have not only lowered purchase requirements but have fought for open-carry laws. Add to that Trump’s fantasy that the election was stolen from him (by eight million votes!), the constant rhetoric from the elected fools who support that delusion, and the grim images of January 6—and who can doubt that more incidents of violence lie ahead?

Responsible people in Congress—and there are many on both sides of the aisle—need to stand up before they find themselves gathered en masse once again to offer thoughts and prayers to a dead colleague or a dead colleague’s family. People like Gosar and Green might be ex post facto accomplices to Rittenhouse this time, but the sequence will be clearer next time. And believing there will be no next time is a pretty thought, but little more than that.

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