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Self-defense on trial in Rittenhouse case

Self-defense on trial in Rittenhouse case

In discussing court cases, I find it prudent to offer a bit of a disclaimer.  Judging a case from the living room is fraught with problems.  The court-of-public-opinion is merely a form of vigilante law without the literal lynch mob.  Much of public opinion is based on biases and prejudices – and ignorance of the law and facts.  

Those of us who comment on cases have a responsibility to do more than take notes from the evening newscasts.  We also must look at the law and not extraneous factors such as the racial make-up of those involved, political views on gun ownership and general partisanship.  When I write of such cases, I try to understand what I would do if I were a juror after seeing the hard evidence and hearing the legal arguments as presented in court.

In a past commentary, I wrote about the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the young black man killed by three white men in Georgia.  After a deep dive into the facts presented in the case, I became convinced that Arbery was a murder victim.  In fact, the case seems clear to me.  I would vote for conviction.

The case of Kyle Rittenhouse is different – as are all cases.  

In the media discussions of the case, the prosecutorial side in the court-of-public-opinion spent a lot of time questioning why Rittenhouse was on the scene of the riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  He was not even a resident of the state – having traveled from his home in Illinois.  

In the court-of-public-opinion, his presence at the scene was part of the evidence against Rittenhouse.  That is the problem with the public court.  His presence there is meaningless to the real case in a real court-of-law.  He broke no law in being on the scene – and it was recently determined that the charge of illegally possessing that particular gun was a prosecutorial mistake.  That is why there are no charges relating to his presence and the gun.

The entire case is being judged on what happened in the very few minutes when Rittenhouse and three others came into contact.  And the only issue is whether Rittenhouse felt in danger of physical harm or death at the hands of anyone or all of the three men.

I have no doubt that he was terrified.  One man had already committed battery by hitting him with a skateboard.  Another man was in the process of taking away Rittenhouse’s gun.  And the third man had a handgun and was pointing it at Rittenhouse.  At one point, Rittenhouse was knocked to the ground and kicked.  The only survivor of the shooting – although wounded — was the fellow with the gun.  He confirmed that he had pointed his weapon at Rittenhouse.

I cannot believe that any juror – or anyone for that matter – would contest that Rittenhouse had every reason to be extremely fearful – terrorized during that engagement.  That is a prima facie case for self-defense.

The prosecutors are trying to prove that it was Rittenhouse that provoked the attacks on himself – and thereby no self-defense.  Videos do not support that argument.  Even prosecution witnesses did not help prosecutors advance that theory.  He was attacked before his responded.  Being on the scene with a scary gun is NOT legal provocation.

The prosecution attempted to rationalize the attack on Rittenhouse as a response to a mass shooter.  The claim does not fit.  Mass shooters seek peaceful venues and the shoot randomly and consistently – liking as many as possible.  There is no threat to the mass shooter when they open fire.

Rittenhouse’s claim that he shot only to stop the attack on him is borne out by the evidence.  As soon as the threat was neutralized, he ceased firing – even though he had a lot more ammunition – and surrendered to police.

There has been an unusual agreement among the various talking heads on both sides of the partisan divide that the defense has the advantage in terms of the outcome – based on evidence and testimony.

It is also obvious that the prosecutors believe that they have lost the case because they have pleaded for – and got – the right for the jury to consider lesser charges. They are charges that could still get Rittenhouse 60 years in the slammer – pretty close to a life sentence. 

That seems very unfair to allow entirely new charges at the conclusion of the trial. After all, the defense has spent thousands of man-hours focusing on the charges that were originally brought. This is nothing more than changing the rules because the prosecutors realize that they lost the case.

Kenosha is bracing for violence in the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict.  That is what the vigilante justice crowd does in the court-of-public-opinion.  That is how they try to enforce verdicts in defiance of the rule-of-law.  The resort to mob action because the did not get the verdict they wanted.

America’s courts tend to do a pretty good job of meting out justice – not perfect, but pretty good.  They generally do not respond to the vigilante voices in the court-of-public-opinion — but rather stick to the evidence and the law.  We saw it in the George Floyd case. We see it in the types of cases being brought against the January 6th rioters – not of that insurrection and sedition crap being advanced by journalist/prosecutors in the court-of-public-opinion.

For that reason, I think there will be a conviction in the Arbery case and an acquittal in the Rittenhouse case. That would prove that justice can be served even in highly charge cases.  Stay tuned.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Dan Tyree

    The hood rats are obstructing justice by trying to threaten and bully the courts. Where’s the outrage? Or has America became a nation of cowards. BLM and antifa are Marxist thugs with a mission of taking over the country.

    • frank stetson

      Hood Rats? Can you explain what a “hood rat” is? Is that black people? Is it just urban blacks or all blacks? If you live in the “hood,” but have a bachelor’s degree, are you still a rat? If you’re part of BLM, are you a hood rat? If you are a Marxist, are you a hood rat? Tell us brave guy, just what exactly is a hood rat?

      Hood rats threatening and bullying the courts. Is that just like Steve Bannon attempting to sway the courts by saying: “We’re taking down the Biden regime,” he said upon his indictment. Then, at court, he said: “I’m telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” Bannon said. “We’re going to go on the offense. We’re tired of playing defense.”

      Not sure of what he might mean? Try: “”The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon siad. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

      Of course inside the courtroom it was all “yes, sir” and “no, sir” as the petulant Bannon demurred.

      Do you classify Steve Bannon as a hood rat?

  2. frank stetson

    Gee, in one case “it’s the law” that allows a 17-year old to be armed with a assault rifle, loaded with full metal jackets, to roam city streets during a protest after police curfew.

    And in the other case: “That seems very unfair to allow entirely new charges at the conclusion of the trial. After all, the defense has spent thousands of man-hours focusing on the charges that were originally brought. This is nothing more than changing the rules because the prosecutors realize that they lost the case.”

    It appears that “it’s the law” only applies some times.

    And no, Larry, many Americans do not agree with your spin of the evidence, not at all. When a 17-year old kid kills, not once, but twice, and then blows another guys arm off, there’s something wrong, somewhere, somehow. Otherwise, there were three nights of this, thousands of armed Kyle’s roaming the streets. Why just this kid? Why the fuck was he even there, much less armed to the teeth and hunting for bear. Crybaby was even too scared to shoot at black protestors.

    • Dan Tyree

      It’s a law to allow burning a city down?

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        And who was burning the city down? It was a BLM protest, but a lot of white nationalists show up to start trouble. That’s why Rittenhouse was there, and you’ll note that his three victims were also white and armed. The damned stupid Nazis can’t even tell each other apart.

        • Dan Tyree

          He did what should have been done. A real American hero. And you commiecrats are worse than nazis. You’re all a bunch of fascist assholes. And remember. There’s more of us than you dickheads

  3. Joseph S. Bruder

    So, a guy gets drunk in a bar and starts mouthing off to someone, someone takes a swing at him, and then he shoots them, is that self defense?

    A black guy walks into a white supremacist bar, knowing full well what kind of place it is, and starts mouthing off to the locals. If he gets attacked, and then pulls a gun, is it self defense? If he goes out and gets his gun and comes back and then shoots someone, is it still self defense?

    If Person A is pointing a gun at Person B, and B grabs it and tries to wrestle it away, can A claim self defense because B might have taken possesion of the gun and threatened A?

    In these cases, the guy with the gun was the agressor, but because of his own actions he put himself in danger and had to defend himself. How is that different from Rittenhouse?

    You walk into a bar in Texas and try to rob the place. Twenty people point guns at you. Is it OK to start shooting because you fear for your life?

    Police see you with a weapon, draw their guns, and tell you to put your hands up. Is it OK to start shooting because you fear for your life?

    Rittenhouse came from a neighboring state, fully armed, and threatened people. He had no reason to be there other than getting a chance to brandish his weapons at live people instead of wooden targets. How is it self defense when someone reacts to that? Maybe the vicitms legitimately feared for their lives, and that’s why they tried to take his guns from him.

    I think the argument is not as simple as just saying “self defense is on trial”. Intent has to be taken into account as well, not what happened in the heat of the moment.

    • Gar pike

      Unless you’re a lawyer stfu. Here’s a question for you. If thugs tr to destroy my home or business is shooting them ok? You say that Rittenhouse shouldn’t have been there and I agree. But he was clearly defending his life. As for self defense, my state laws say that if a person reasonably believe that him/ her self or others are in danger of death or serious bodily harm then deadly force is allowed. And being struck by a fist could be very dangerous. Especially in a severe heat down. So quit trying to be a armchair prosecutor. If the punks had killed Rittenhouse, would you feel better? The fact is that people are getting tired of the bullshit from these lawless assholes.

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        If you take a gun into a bar and intentionally start a fight just so you can shoot someone, that’s premeditation. No different than what Rittenhouse did.

        • Dan Tyree

          A huuuge difference. Mr. Rittenhouse didn’t start it. He finished it

  4. frank stetson

    Mr Rittenhouse “finished it” three different times when thousands found no need to start it to begin with. Most people take a break after killing someone, especially in self defense. He took an AR to a protest, what was the expected outcome? He defended himself against a paper bag, a skateboard, and a gun dangling from the arm he all but blew off. Sure looks like they were the ones defending themselves against this lunatic with a long gun.

    It’s chaos. Kyle has been pushed out from the auto dealership and can’t get back. He roams to another one a few blocks away, shots ring out in the air and a crowd begins to pursue a man with a gun, Kyle. Kyle turns to the gunfire, someone lunges, Kyle shoots four times. Then he makes a phone call and then begins to run chased by people saying “that’s the shooter,” which would be correct, he is a shooter. Kyle runs, Kyle trips, people come at him, he fires four times. One falls, another with a handgun dangling from a arm that Kyle has blown off, runs away, Now, guns are going off all around. Probably over a dozen shots.

    The police do nothing from about a block away. Kyle walks up, surrenders, as people say he’s the shooter. The police go right by him to focus on those Kyle has shot.

    Kyle is 17 years old. 17 years old. Kyle can not vote. He can’t even buy cigarettes or alcohol. The military won’t let him hold a gun. In Kenosha, he can walk the streets in full body armor during a protest where’s there’s violence armed with a AR-15, locked and loaded with full metal jackets.

    And whose self-defense are we projecting? Sounds like the protestors are the ones facing dangerous, armed, unhinged, children. I think the parents should be on trial too.

    Wonder how the auto business will prosper after this. Bet they were really glad for that protection.

    • Joseph S. Bruder

      Rittenhouse may have been declared legally innocent in a court of law (where the judge openly showed bias), but he will get his just rewards. He is marked as a murderer for the rest of his life. The psychological toll will be enormous, and I’ll bet this won’t be the last time he shoots someone “in self defense”. I would bet he’ll even show up at future BLM protests fully armed. The families of the men killed and maimed can sue him for wrongful death regardless of the outcome of the trial. And good luck getting accepted to a college or getting a real job. Nobody wants that kind of publicity. Despite being offered an intership by one of the right-wing nutcases in Congress, that will blow back on both of them and it won’t happen twice.

      • Dan Tyree

        The families of the dead commies can sue but you can’t get blood from a turnip. What’s he got to sue for.? And if I could I would hire him today if I were a business owner. As armed security. Lol. And since he was justified in shooting the scumbags he’ll be ok.

  5. frank stetson

    “Unless you’re a lawyer stfu.” Hey folks, bet you never thought you would see some idiot say that…. Let the lawyer talk…. that’s a good one.

    Whatta call ten lawyers chained to the bottom of Lake Michigan in Kenosha?
    A good start, ba dum, bump.

    “If thugs tr to destroy my home or business is shooting them ok?” That’s a “it depends.” You see, you need to follow the rule of law, and said “self-defense” or “stand your ground” laws may differ depending on your state and your State. We already have an idea of your state, but what State? But, of course, you knew that before you posed the obvious.

    “But he was clearly defending his life.” Well, fxxx, guess the trial is unnecessary. The truth is that a jury is determining whether it was self defense, was it reasonable, and I am sure a number of other legal things. You say he was defending himself; the argument could be made that he’s the aggressor too. So we will see what the jury says and that will be that. And no, I don’t want to see anyone killed or even put in jail. Don’t think Kyle is built for the big house. There is another truth here —– no one would have been killed IF 17-year old Kyle Rittenhouse had not been there with his body armor, AR-15, and full metal jackets. No one had to die until young Kyle came on the scene. Who lets a fully armed 17-year old attend an active protest? One were property damage is most likely to occur? And then he supposedly defended himself three times with two dead and one’s arm nearly blown off. No one over the age of 17 that was there did this, did anything like this. But this lawless asshole felt the need to defend parked cars for someone he doesn’t even know who sells cars in a black neighborhood. And yet, he finds white guys to shoot. Go figure.

    The hero’s are the ones who came to the aid of the fallen, not the guy who shot up the place when no one else felt the need for self defense by AR-15 while being attacked by paper bag and skateboard. The guy with a guy, well he just blew his arm off, he’s the lucky one of the three. I’m sorry, but there is something wrong here, either with the laws, the protectors of the law, parents, protestors, militia’s, —– somewhere there is something wrong here. Something is off.

    • Dan Tyree

      Not guilty!!!!!!! Praise God. Let the BLM thugs take notice. No, our hero Mr. Rittenhouse didn’t fire until he had to for survival. He had more right to be there than the looters But right or not, he should have kept his ass in Illinois

    • Dewey siZemore

      Yes something is off. With you. Making it up as you go. The bastards didn’t have a right to destroy property. And try to kill our hero Kyle. And he’s not built for the big house. I heard of an account of a small guy who went to prison for a short term. About to get turned out, he crippled 3 guys. He was a 3rd degree blackbelt. I don’t know about Kyle, but it’s not always the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. If convicted, hooking up with the aryan brotherhood would have been a good option. Let’s go Kyle!!! Let’s go Brandon!!!

  6. Frank stetson

    Let’s go bird bird.

    Yeah, crybaby Kyle is one bad Dude.

    Who cares, the jury has spoken. It’s open season for self defense in Wisconsin.

    Civil suits are just the next step in the process when you shoot three people , kill two. It’s not about the money, its about taking everything you have for the rest if your life for the lives you took.

    • Joseph S. Bruder

      He’s a marked man for the rest of his life. He’ll be recruited by Nazi wannabees who will be proud to associate him, which will get him in more trouble. And anywhere he ever works, there will be picketers, and who knows, even a crazy person with a gun, since even crazy people have the right to carry. I’d give 10-1 odds that he’ll either be in prison or dead within the next 10 years.

      Just like all of Trump’s campaign workers that he pardoned, most of them continued with the same shit and are under investigation already. These leopards never change their spots.

      • Larry kuhn

        The same thing was predicted for the great George Zimmerman but he’s doing good

  7. frank stetson

    Yeah, George Zimmerman is living the high life of the national hero after killing an unarmed kid because he chose to be in the wrong spot, doing the wrong thing, in the wrong way —- George I mean of course.

    November 5th: “A weekend event featuring a speech by George Zimmerman was nixed by an Idaho hotel group after the company learned the man who killed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was slated to be a headlining attraction at their venue.” Yeah, they be cancelling his little for-profit talks as fast as he can book them.

    Of course, this is George’s life now:
    “NEWS: Here’s why a theater rebuffed George Zimmerman and a film on Trayvon Martin’s killing.”
    Happens all the time. And the guy is just trying to make a buck from killing an unarmed black teenager.

    “George Zimmerman punched for allegedly bragging about killing “ OK, from 2016, but never gets old. Also, from 2016, his best income year ever: “George Zimmerman sells gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin for more than $100,000” See, crime does pay!!

    Of course, he had the best legal advice: “Lawyer who represented George Zimmerman arrested for witness tampering in rape case.”

    By 2018, things not looking so good for George Z. “George Zimmerman, who shot dead Trayvon Martin, is $2.5m in debt.” But not to worry, GZ still has admirers: “Man who shot at George Zimmerman’s car convicted of attempted murder.”

    So, sure kids, lock and load em, bring those full metal jackets and body armor, fire away, you will probably get off, even skateboards and paper bags can be deadly weapons now, but you will never get away from the deeds you do, and how you do em. Kill someone, plead self defense, get off, live long, be broke, be shunned, be aware at all times because someone will always be there, someone will always try, and sooner or later, someone will be faster.

    It’s the way of the gunslinger, always has been. Live fast, die young, stay pretty. Everyone is there to tell you what a great man you are, no one is there to pick up the pieces of your forever shattered life. Fire away boys, fire away.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      Your post is ridiculous (the parts that are actually comprehensible…). George Zimmerman living the high life??? Right. Remember this was originally just two complete morons who got in a fight and one of them died. Liberals made it the big show.

      • Joseph S. Bruder

        First of all, he’s being sarcastic, and you totally missed it. And secondly, it was not a fight – Zimmerman was a member of the self-appointed neighborhood watch. He shot an unarmed 17 year old black kid who was staying with friends there, then claimed self-defense.

        Hmmm, sounds familiar… Looks like the laws are being written so you can attack anyone with a gun and if they try to defend themselves you can shoot them and claim self-defense. I see a lot of Proud Boys using this defense in the future.

        It’s not a good career move to murder unarmed people. Little Kyle Rittenhouse will figure this out when he can’t get a job, can’t enroll in a good college or university (not that I think he’s college material), everywhere he tries to work gets picketed, and there will always be crazies out there literally “gunning” for him. Between the murder and the trial, he was already hanging out in white supremacist bars. He’ll show up at future protests, armed, and will probably kill someone else. He won’t get away with it again. I’d give 10 to 1 odds he’ll end up dead or in jail in the next 10 years.

  8. frank stetson

    I was just responding to “The same thing was predicted for the great George Zimmerman but he’s doing good.”

    By all accounts, IMO, George does not look to be doing good.

    He’s gained a lot of weight, keeps trying to monetarize his murder; he’s trying to capitalize any way he can on his notoriety and make a few bucks for killing an unarmed kid. Whenever will that end well? Think he may wrestle Tanya Harding next.

    You said: “Remember this was originally just two complete morons who got in a fight and one of them died” Just two morons huh. Just one of them died. I’m sorry, are you really saying it’s just a couple of guys, one unlucky unarmed and dead, the other, fully loaded for bear, with a gun, and he’s still alive, just two morons mixing it up a bit. Not some deranged vigilante armed with a gun and the Florida Stand Your Ground POS law actively hunting down and assaulting a 17-yar old unarmed kid that he subsequently shoots dead. Gee, the moron with the gun won, go figure.

    This was about a 29-year old adult man, armed with a gun, who chases down and shoots a 17-year old unarmed kid. Dead. And we call it self-defense because the guy without the gun who was being pursued was menacing.

    Well, the moron who got away with self-defense, has been a worthy citizen ever since. I mean, since then, the police have been called for his assault on his father-in-law with a gun; charges dropped. Later that year, the charges were dropped again after he was accused on pulling a shotgun on his girlfriend. The next year he was in a road rage incident, the year after that there were shots exchanged between the two road ragers with memories….his aggressor on this one ended in the mental ward for having a Zimmerman-crush.

    As of 2013, Zimmerman became a painter in the Bush and Biden school of art ebaying pieces for over $100K a piece. Later that year, he had a cease and desist for all paintings because of plagiarism. Next he became selling pictures of Confederate Flags, or murderabillia as some call them. Sold his murder gun for $250K as well. Guys got to make a living, it’s murder to make a buck out there in the real world.

    As of 2019, Zimmerman is suing anyone he can get pro bono on. He’s got Mayor Pete, Elizabeth W, and Martin’s family in his sights so far although not much new on this post 2019. With his 15 minute clock running down, Zimmerman’s time is running out too. We have bigger and better self-defense experts taking on the unarmed for multiple counts of murder of the unarmed followed by the trail of tears.

    I dunno Joe, there just seems to be more going on here that two morons in a fight. One of these morons was there for a purpose, the other was there hunting for trouble. You description seems to be a very Fonzi Happy Days 1950’s sort of way of looking at it. As gun sales continue to soar after Kyle’s story, I can see the day when we can book Wisconsin hunting vacations. Sure seems like open season up there if you are into that sort of thing, like Kyle was into it. Or George.

    My point is sure, you can get off the charges, but then the civil suits come. You can try to move on with your life, buy your life is only about your murder and that’s the only think you can sell anymore. It becomes your value on this Earth. It defines you. Everywhere you go, they give you the look of the murderer, or they congratulate you on taking a life. Neither provides any solace. No, I think there’s much more going on here than just two morons in a fight. And it just got worse.

    • Dan Tyree

      Travon brought it on himself

  9. frank stetson

    Zimmerman brought this on himself. He brought a gun to a fist fight and he used it. Now he profits from what he did He has killed a 17-year old unarmed boy, he can claim anything he likes, people will pay him money for what he did, they even buy the gun. America, you can do better.

  10. frank stetson

    Really, and pray how did Trayvon, the guy without the gun, do that?

    I find it amazing that all these guys with guns keep shooting guys without guns claiming there were in fear of their lives. Seems like the guys without guns just don’t have a lot to say about that and tie goes to the runner, or at least the ones that can still run.

    • Dan Tyree

      Travon wasn’t unarmed. He was a strong guy with potentially deadly hands and feet. And if Mr. Zimmerman hadn’t shot him the thug would have smashed his brains out. And remember. The “unarmed “ punk attacked first. Mr. Zimmerman was on his way back to his car. Sooner or later Travon would have killed someone. He was already being quoted saying that he liked to ground and pound people. I have great sympathy for his parents. But Mr. Zimmerman did the right thing. Perhaps better parenting and training would have prevented him from being killed. We don’t know. But you armchair quarterbacks don’t know shit from Shoe polish. I believe that Mr. Zimmerman did the right thing. But I also wish that it didn’t happen. Any death other than people living to old age and passing away is a bad thing. My state has stand your ground but I would have tried to walk away. Believe it or not. Deadly force should always be a last resort but never ruled out. But I know that you don’t believe in armed defense.

  11. Frank stetson

    Yeah, the poor guys with the guns are always the victims.

    You nade the point we don’t know. And neither do you. And neither does the jury. And since it’s self defense needing proof beyond reasonable doubt and one of the he said, she said , is dead, it’s a high bar with some of the truth always hidden especially since the supposed aggressor is dead. .

    Trayvon is how you spell his name.was a 160 lbs 17-year old , not a Bruce Lee killing machine. George was scuffed up, not severely injured, and even with the tapes in Kenosha, it’s hard to prove beyond reasonable doubt. Especially when one party can’t take the stand. There is something wrong here that these good guys with guns keep gunning down the unarmed, often causing no harm, and claiming the unarmed guy was the aggressor. In this last one, three times this punk shot another guy. Three different guys. That’s a lot of shooting where no one else is killing anyone.

    While the juries have spoken we also know these armed guys didn’t need to be there, didn’t need to be armed, and didn’t need to approach alone. They made a choice, that decision led to death, and guilty or not, they killed unarmed people because, even with a gun, they feared for their life.

    My point is that even if manslaughter can’t be proved, these guys don’t get off scot free. They tend to try to profit from their acts and I don’t see any heroics in that. Others should learn about the life of Martin, what’s waiting for Kyle. It’s all glory right up until you pull that trigger.

    • Harold blankenship

      Good job Kyle and George