Anderson Cooper 360: Judge Gertner discusses the implications of Rittenhouse's acquittal

On November 19, Judge Gertner appeared on CNN to discuss her reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse's acquittal and the implications of the verdict.

November 19, 2021 

Read a transcript of the segment below.

ANDERSON COOPER: Still undetermined after the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict is the legacy of this jury's decision and what it means for future protests armed vigilantes and legal and law enforcement officials who have to police a nation deeply divided over the meaning of today's events. 

Two perspectives now: CNN law enforcement analyst Charles Ramsey, a former D.C. police chief and Philadelphia Police Commissioner, and Nancy Gertner, a former federal judge, who's now a senior lecturer at Harvard Law School. 

Judge Gertner, we've talked a lot through the trial. I'm wondering what you made of the verdict. 

NANCY GERTNER, FMR FEDERAL JUDGE: I wasn't surprised – like your other analysts have been, I also was not surprised. But what's troubling is not so much the fact that the jury reached this verdict, but the implications of it. It's almost as if the justification to use – when you carry a gun, it sort of justifies using it. So much of this case was Rittenhouse responding to people trying to take the gun away from him, which could as much be trying to disarm him as to threaten him. So the implications for other cases are very serious. That is troubling. 

COOPER: Chief Ramsey, what's your reaction to both the verdict, and from a law enforcement perspective, about any message it may send to others who might want to come armed to an event like this? 

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, I wasn't surprised at the verdict. But when I look at it, I look at it in terms of preparation for the police, because whichever way it goes, the police are going to have to be able to respond in case there's any protests that may take place as a result of the of the verdict. As far as what this could mean in the future with people bringing guns to protest? I mean, that didn't start with Kyle Rittenhouse. This has been going on now for a couple of years at least. And police have been seeing it more and more. I mean, when you think back to when the State Capitol in Michigan was taken over, many of those people were heavily armed when they went inside the state capitol. 

So you're starting to see it more and more. Bringing guns to a demonstration or a protest is just a recipe for something bad to happen. And it's unfortunate, but I think we're going to see more of it. 

COOPER: You know, Judge Gertner, it's interesting – I was thinking about this today, because we‘re told now if there's an active shooter situation, that if you can't run and you can't hide, to fight. If somebody thinks that somebody's walking around an event like this with an AR-15 style rifle is an active shooter, and attacks them thinking they're trying to stop a shooter – I mean, should this give pause to somebody doing that now? 

GERTNER: I think it definitely gives pause. Think about it this way: when a police officer says “the person I'm arresting tried to disarm me,” then you know that person's up to no good because police officers have a right to wear guns, to carry guns. But now in a situation where a private person is carrying a gun, and you try to disarm him, with respect to him, that becomes a justification to shoot back. 

I mean, what it does is it makes people, you know, sort of step back from anybody with a gun, even a 17-year-old with an AR-15, lest going for the gun to disarm them be used as an excuse for a shooting. Now, I think it's incredibly dangerous. And the issue is less how this verdict happened, than the way it's going to play out in future months. 

COOPER: Chief Ramsey, I know you're concerned about what this case says about gun laws in the country. On Monday, the judge allowed the misdemeanor weapons charge to be thrown out. What do you think the country should take away from this trial as it relates to firearms? 

RAMSEY: Well, that'll be interesting to see. But we have very poor gun laws. In fact, for all practical purposes, we really don't have any meaningful gun laws. For example, you've got a 17-year-old kid, he's got an AR-15, or assault weapon. You can buy a gun in this country, and there's no requirement for you to get any kind of training at all on how to handle that gun, or any training on the law in terms of when you can actually use that gun against another person. And everyone has their own idea about when you can use deadly force. I mean, that's something that police have hundreds and hundreds of hours of training on, and the average person buys a gun – gets zero, gets nothing. 

And so, there's a lot that needs to be done. Not just trying to control firearms, but just making sure that they are in the hands of responsible people who really understand when and where and how they can use it. 

COOPER: Well, Judge, there's also having a gun, which I mean, it's legal – I have no problem with that as long as you do it according to the law – but do you need to bring that gun to a, you know, an environment where there potentially is violence, at the very least, you know, high stress and demonstrations? Is that really a good – is that – that just doesn't seem like a wise idea, particularly if you're somebody who's 17 years old and has had no experience in this kind of a certain circumstance. 

GERTNER: Well, that was like – that was the key to what the prosecutor was saying, which is that if you were there to guard businesses, why did you now walk down the middle of the street carrying an AR-15? And his response to that, which unfortunately was sort of hyped in the closing was, you know, “I didn't think the police were – I wanted to help the police. I didn't know what they were doing.” The notion – we got a really serious problem if a teenager is going to basically, you know, supplant the police because the police aren't doing enough – 


GERTNER: – that goes to both his training, which is non-existent, and it goes to what the police were doing. So, we've got a lot of work here. 

COOPER: Yes. Chief, Charles Ramsey, appreciate it. Judge Nancy Gertner, appreciate it as well.