You Win. Arm All the Angry Young Men—and the Scared Ones, Too | Opinion

OK, you win. I've heard enough. Kyle Rittenhouse is a hero. I should have never suggested he was anything less than that.

The death threats you've sent me through my employer and former associates, the N-word-laced messages that found their way to my inbox, the profanity-filled emails you copied my supervisors on have convinced me that all that matters is that Rittenhouse was able to protect himself.

The jury finding him guilty on all counts doesn't mean he is "innocent" in the way O.J. Simpson was "innocent." You win: It means he is innocent, full stop.

I'm convinced: Other young men should pick up AR-15s, too, to patrol any neighborhood they believe has succumbed to chaos. You peace-loving defenders of Rittenhouse, that salt-of-the-earth baby-faced patriot, opened my eyes, which had been blinded by a race-obsession for far, far too long, as you pointed out in your emails. You've convinced me so thoroughly that I'm now reconsidering everything I've ever thought about young men with guns.

I've long advocated for laws and customs that would reduce the number of guns on the street. I've mentored young men to turn their guns in to police departments before tragedy struck. But after considering your wise counsel and watching your jubilation as Rittenhouse is freed despite the blood he shed, I now know I was wrong; More of those young men should be armed just in case they might be attacked by strangers.

What we need is more guns—for the young men who don't want to be robbed of the drugs they are dealing to feed their families, like the shooting that sent one of my brothers and a nephew to prison, or the drive-by shooting that cost my niece her mom. We need more guns for the young athletes in rough neighborhoods just trying to make it to school without being harassed. For the young men and women trying to avoid being forced into gangs. The solution is simple: Give them guns, for surely the presence of those guns is more likely to decrease the chances of confrontation and bloodshed than increase the chances of an aggressive response.

It worked for Rittenhouse, as you pointed out. Why wouldn't it work for them, too?

Looking back, with the help of your wise counsel, I now wish Trayvon Martin had a gun that fateful night in 2012 in Sanford, Florida. Had he had one with which to defend himself, he'd be as alive as Kyle Rittenhouse.

More guns in the hands of more people in more places is the solution to the highest-rate of gun violence in the developed world, particularly in the hands of teenage boys who think the guns "look cool." Heck, I should have taken a cue from the cops in Wisconsin that night: They saw Rittenhouse and others in his group strapped with rifles and thanked them for helping patrol those rowdy streets, which were full of thugs who hate America. As we know, cops know what to do with guns better than anyone else. They're never wrong.

Kyle Rittenhouse and Trayvon Martin
Kyle Rittenhouse and Trayvon Martin Getty Images/Newsweek collage

Good thing Rittenhouse had that gun. If not, his mom would have been reduced to crying at his funeral rather than during a criminal trial his family should not have had to endure. I agree with you. You're right! I mistakenly believed that what's at stake was bigger than Rittenhouse.

None of the circumstances or his decisions leading up to his killing two people and wounding another matter. So what if he was carrying an assault-style rifle he couldn't legally own? Who cares? He's alive, darn it! All that matters is that he was trying to do good, trying to protect a community, restoring law and order in a place where looters and rioters were running around like a pack of animals.

Rittenhouse wasn't a confused boy hyped up on myths about law enforcement or a reckless vigilante; he was a volunteer medic who cleaned graffiti and patched the wounds those animals left behind.

I'm with you now. Not sure why it took me so long to see what you clearly saw. I apologize for my race-baiting blindness. How dare I have wanted anything other than complete exoneration and a firm declaration of absolute innocence for Rittenhouse! Slow down the video enough and focus solely on the seconds leading up to the times Rittenhouse pulled the trigger, that's what I should have done. I can't believe I had forgotten that lesson from the first Rodney King trial!

Thank you. With my contrition, I hope you can join me in believing that Trayvon Martin should have carried an AR-15 with him to the convenience store that night to buy candy and a fruity drink. Because we all know now that race is not a factor in how those who own or possess guns are viewed by the public at large or the criminal justice system. Rittenhouse is Martin and Martin is Rittenhouse. Their race difference has nothing to do with your disparate responses to Rittenhouse protecting himself from a roving mob and Martin being shot for protecting himself from a strange man who tracked him down.

Forget about all that data about white men being more likely to be found not guilty for killing Black men than the reverse, or the research telling us that self-defense is more likely to be afforded white defendants than black ones. That data is as phony as the data suggesting cops kill Black men at a higher rate than white men.

None of this matters if we just arm everyone! In Ohio, Tamir Rice should have had a real pistol rather than the toy one he was playing with in a park in a state in which openly carrying guns is legal and commonplace. Like with Rittenhouse, Rice's age and stage of brain development are of no consequence. He should have been able to protect himself from that cop who rushed to the scene and jumped out of his car and shot him within two seconds of arrival.

Sandra Bland would be alive if she pulled out a Glock at the first sign of that police officer getting aggressive and disrespecting her because she had every reason to be afraid for her life. She should have known breaking the law by changing lanes without signaling would have attracted the attention of a police officer, and she should have been ready to protect herself.

Now I get it: Ahmaud Arbery should have been strapped. It would have evened the odds between him, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan. With that gun, Ahmaud would have had a fighting chance. He unwisely assumed he'd be safe jogging through a white community. No Black person should succumb to that assumption again.

I routinely jog through white neighborhoods whose names evoke a love for the Lost Cause and a reverence for "Gone with the Wind." But you're all right: I need to get a gun and have it strapped to my side every time I plan to get a six-mile run in.

For far too long, I've been a fool who believed more guns in more places in the hands of more hands makes this country more dangerous, less stable. I was wrong: More guns in the hands of more people will make things better.

You've convinced me I was wrong to have ever believed otherwise. Let us all carry guns.

It's the only way to feel or be safe in a country experiencing a spike in homicides. Rittenhouse didn't become a statistic because he had a gun. Trayvon Martin became one because he didn't. Clearly, that's the lesson we should take from what happened on that Wisconsin street.

Issac Bailey is professor of public policy at Davidson College, a 2014 Nieman fellow at Harvard University and author of Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland. Twitter: @ijbailey.

The views in this article are the writer's own.