KENOSHA, Wis. — The judge in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial on Monday dismissed the misdemeanor gun possession charge the teenager faced after defense lawyers argued that he did not violate the state statute in question because of his age and the length of the barrel of his semiautomatic rifle.
Judge Bruce Schroeder’s ruling, delivered shortly before closing statements, resolved a byzantine legal debate over a Wisconsin statute that began after Mr. Rittenhouse was charged last year with fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during chaotic demonstrations in Kenosha.
Mr. Rittenhouse still faces five felony charges, including first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a potential life sentence. The jury will begin deliberating on Tuesday morning.
The defense had long argued that the gun possession charge was invalid, saying that Wisconsin law did not bar Mr. Rittenhouse from carrying the military-style semiautomatic rifle on Aug. 25, 2020. Its successful argument hinged in part on the fact that the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 he had strapped around his shoulder has a 16-inch-long barrel.
the statute barring “possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18” did not apply in this case.
The statute says it applies to minors carrying a rifle or shotgun only if they are not in compliance with at least one additional statute. Those include the regulation of “hunting and use of firearms by persons under 16 years of age,” and the prohibition of rifles with barrels less than 16 inches long.
Mr. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time of the shootings. The judge threw out the charge after nobody in court disputed the length of the gun’s barrel.