Texas gun shop defends ‘not guilty sale’ after Rittenhouse trial: ‘We are celebrating’

Jesse Kline with his dog and what appears to be a rifle case outside the Kenosha County Courthouse. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

A Texas gun store and shooting range is standing by its “not guilty sale,” launched in “celebration” of Kyle Rittenhouse and the outcome of his murder trial.

Rittenhouse faced five charges after fatally shooting two men and wounding another that attacked him during a night of violent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, but was acquitted last week on all charges.

Days of protests were spurred by the Aug. 23, 2020, shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer in Kenosha.

Rittenhouse has maintained since the Aug. 25, 2020, shootings that he acted in self-defense.

Saddle River Range, in Conroe, Texas, announced the “not guilty sale” in a text blast to customers on Nov. 19, the day the jury reached the verdict in Rittenhouse’s trial.

“We are celebrating the life that Kyle Rittenhouse now gets to live because he was able to defend himself without being penalized for it,” the range said in an Instagram post, clarifying the intent of the sale was not to “celebrate the loss of life.”

The sale was announced to customers only, and while some said they were bothered, most took no issue, owner Thomas Bolsch told McClatchy News in a phone interview. But as word spread about the sale, criticism, and support, soon started rolling in from near and far.

“The fact that y’all want to capitalize on this is disgusting, but it’s no surprise honestly. I’m all for the 2nd amendment, but this is too much,” one person wrote on the range’s Instagram page. “Shameful, shameful, shameful.”

“I really respect this store, I purchased my first gun from you all but as a young black male … this does not give me confidence in the justice system and I don’t like the fact you all are capitalizing on a situation,” commented another.

The sale isn’t hurting business, Bolsch says, and the bulk of the outrage is coming from folks who were never going to be customers anyway.

Wading into the divisive issue may actually help drum up sales — if other social media comments are any indication.

“I’ve never been to your store but because of this post I’ll be doing my Christmas shopping there,” one comment read.

“Really respect that you remained firm in your stance publicly,” said another. “A lot of people or companies backtrack when faced with backlash.”

It’s surprising that so many seem shocked that a gun store would be pleased by the verdict, Bolsch said. The way he sees it, the Rittenhouse trial is a win for the Second Amendment as much as it is for an innocent man.

“We were going to have the sale anyway, and it just so happened that the day we were going to have it, the verdict was read,” Bolsch said. “I’m telling you, everyone in this gun store, all our members, we rejoiced on that.”

While Rittenhouse has been praised by many, including Donald Trump, Bolsch said the 18-year-old has also been dragged through the mud on the news, on social media and elsewhere, accused of being a racist and inciting violence. Plenty of assumptions, plenty of noise. That’s why he puts his faith in the courts, Bolsch says.

“If it goes to a jury of someone’s peers, and they have the facts and not what MSNBC wants to put out … and they rule on it, that’s it. That’s the 12 people who matter,” Bolsch said.

Bolsch added that, despite what some may suggest, the “not guilty sale” isn’t a celebration of the shootings.

“We don’t rejoice on the loss of life, we will never celebrate the loss of life. We regret that any life was lost and anyone was injured,” he said. “But our system worked, our judicial system worked and that’s what we are celebrating.”

Since Rittenhouse was acquitted, demonstrations have erupted in cities across the county.


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