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Silverman: Responsible adults should not put weapons in the hands of kids

Donald Trump is good for business. The gun business. Want gun sales to go through the roof? Combine a bad pandemic with civil unrest. Throw in some irresponsible presidential rhetoric about rigged elections and suburban invasions for maximum impact. 

In his fascinating memoir, Disloyal, Michael Cohen, Trump’s wannabe gangster lawyer, reveals how Donald Junior was constantly belittled and humiliated by the senior Trump.

The president does not waste time on children or pets. Little scene stealers are beneath Trump, who, during his own teen years, got sent away by his parents to New York Military Academy. Trump has concluded only losers and suckers enter the real military.

Militias are more his style. He liked the very fine people with the tiki torches in Charlottesville, and he approved the paintballshooting Trump Patriot Prayer paraders through Portland. 

Craig Silverman

Wisconsin is where Donald Trump really threw gasoline on the fire. Our president effectively encouraged armed vigilantism by his supporters, even minors.

Kyle Rittenhouse, age 17, traveled from his Illinois home to Kenosha, Wisconsin to join a militia ready to rumble with Black Lives Matter. He had an AR-15 and shot three people. Two died. President Trump reacted as follows:

“That was an interesting situation. You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them. I guess it looks like he fell and then they very violently attacked him. And it was something that we’re looking at right now, and it’s under investigation. But I guess he was in very big trouble. He would have been — probably would have been killed, but it’s under investigation.”

Experienced criminal defense attorneys could not say it better. Hello, Rittenhouse murder acquittals and exoneration — courtesy of the president of the United States. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Young Kyle was a front-row Trump supporter at a Jan. 30 rally in Iowa. Traveling from Antioch, Illinois, to Des Moines to get that kind of seat displays the youth loyalty our president craves.     

Rittenhouse made his hero president proud. But what kind of unfeeling authoritarian character would launch child warriors to battle for them? Kyle Rittenhouse suits this POTUS just fine. 

Michael Anthony Mendoza, 17, and Marqueil Deandre Banks, 16, were charged last week with first-degree murder in the Lakewood, Colorado shooting deaths of Damian Wikoff, 18, and Dillon Wikoff, 17. 

These fatalities happened in the parking lot of the Wadsworth and Colfax Walmart, and allegedly revolved around illegal gun sales among these boys. 

Back in the fall of 1992, Theron Hicks, 15, was shot dead by Danny Akers, 16, in Montbello. Akers had a Mac-11 assault weapon bought for him by his mother at an Aurora pawn shop.

We know that because I called Akers’ mother, Debbie Sue Straight, as a witness at her son’s preliminary hearing and she explained the assault weapon purchase at an Aurora pawn shop. And then we had her arrested. 

Assault weapons like AR-15s and Mac-11s were, and still are, illegal under Denver’s City Code. Any adult who helps a minor violate a municipal ordinance is guilty of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, a felony. Akers’ mother was convicted and went to jail.

Ron and Marva Hicks, parents of the late Theron, turned their grief into action. They helped me form People United – No Children’s Handguns (PUNCH!) Up until then, it was fine for any Colorado minor, no matter how young, to own and possess a regular gun of any kind.

Back in the early 1990s, there was an epidemic of shooting deaths in metro Denver involving youths with handguns. It culminated in Denver’s 1993 Summer of Violence and a special legislative session that followed.

PUNCH! was opposed in 1993 by the NRA, but we brought shooting victim James Brady, the severely wounded Reagan White House press secretary, to Denver. Gov. Roy Romer was on our side, and Colorado’s new statute prohibiting possession of firearms by minors was passed. 

Wisconsin now has a similar law prohibiting minors from possessing firearms, and Kyle Rittenhouse is charged accordingly. The accused juvenile killers of the Wikoff brothers in Lakewood also face such charges.  

Even if these accused are acquitted on self-defense grounds, expect convictions of them being minors illegally possessing firearms.

Minors often obtain firearms by breaking into cars and homes of law-abiding gun owners. Occasionally, irresponsible parents are involved. Many have called for the arrest of Wendy Rittenhouse. Kyle’s single mother is suspected of driving him from Antioch to Kenosha to participate with the militia.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

In Colorado, we’ve experienced way too many intervening murders by minors between the killing of Theron Hicks and the Wikoff brothers. The horrific 1999 Columbine massacre involved teenage gunmen, as did the sad STEM school shooting death of Kendrick Castillo. Adult liability for juvenile violence is an issue with which we’ve long wrestled in Colorado.

Responsible adults should not place weapons in the hands of juveniles. We should not live in a society where children are armed. Contrary to what Donald Trump may imply, Kyle Rittenhouse is not a good example. Neither is the president.


Craig Silverman is a former Denver chief deputy DA who also has worked in the media for decades. Craig is columnist at large for The Colorado Sun. He practices law at the Denver law firm of Springer & Steinberg, P.C. and is host of The Craig Silverman Show podcast.


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