It’s time we figure out how we can love our kids *and* our guns [Podcast Episode 3, blog version]

STEVE GRAPPE, EPISODE HOST: Good morning. I’m here this morning with Rodney Govens, who is running for U.S. House in Arkansas’ Congressional District 1. I’m Steve Grappe with Stand Up Arkansas. How you doing this morning, Rodney?

RODNEY GOVENS: Oh, I’m doing all right, you know, another beautiful day in paradise…

STEVE: Yeah, always. I appreciate having you on today. Today I’d like to talk about something that I know is pretty close to your heart and that some of the stuff that’s going on with the school shootings and the shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl celebration. Talk to me about what’s on your mind.

RODNEY: You know, Steve, I think it’s beyond time that we’ve had some uncomfortable conversations around how much we actually love guns. You know, I own a couple of guns. Steve, I’m ex-Army. I know an M16A2, I know an AR-15. I know what a weapon of war is. I know what a rifle is. I know what it can do. But I also know that I love kids way more than I love my guns. And it is time that we figure out some kind of way that we can do both. I think it’s time that we start having the uncomfortable conversations, right?

And I don’t think that we need to have knee-jerk reactions. I don’t think that we need to go after everybody’s guns and start taking guns away and all sorts of stuff. But I do believe that we need to at least start discussing the issue instead of just simply passing out “thoughts and prayers” until the next one occurs.

On November 5th of last year on Filing Day, which is supposed to be a joyous occasion, right? My family was geeked up for it, my circle. I got a text message that my niece was cowered in a corner because there was an active shooter on her campus in Lawrence, Kansas, at Lawrence East High. And this kind of stuff is happening way too regularly.

And then at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade, which was supposed to be another momentous occasion, a joyous occasion, because back-to-back Super Bowl winners don’t happen that often. People go out to celebrate with their kids so that their kids can see the heroes behind those jerseys, behind those helmets. But we had 11 children that were shot and had to be taken care of in a hospital.

It is beyond thoughts and prayers at this point. Thoughts and prayers are great. We need those too, but it’s also time for us to logically start thinking and talking about what we can do to curb some of this violence.

I’m not suggesting that everybody just go and destroy their guns tomorrow. I think that’s a little too much of a knee-jerk reaction.

What I am talking about is exactly what happened with DUI laws in this country decades ago. DUI was running rampant. You talk to any law enforcement officer from back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and they will tell you DUI was running rampant. Some counties would let it go. Some counties counted as a misdemeanor. Some municipalities wanted to lock you up forever. It was all over the place. They didn’t even have a standardized test for it. Right. You just look at the guy. Oh, he’s good. Right. Let me go ahead and help him get home. And in some cases … they would go ahead and put you in what they call the drunk tank.

It wasn’t until we standardized it across the country — every county, every city — we decided from a federal perspective, let’s go ahead and put in a mechanism, the breathalyzer, so that we can measure if somebody is drunk when they are actively driving behind the wheel. Once we did that, we curbed it. We didn’t stop it. We’re never going to stop every single one. But I would contend that having a mass shooting event every week, every other week, I think it’s a little too much.

And it’s time that we start talking about curbing it.

STEVE: I don’t know the exact number, but the last I’d heard there were either 17 or 18 active shooter (emergencies) that have already occurred in the state of Arkansas this school year and at least one with shots fired. And yeah, I got to tell you Rodney, this is a tough conversation and I agree with you. We got to come up with solutions, but I think I’m pretty typical of Arkansans. I grew up with a gun in my hand. I had my first 410 shotgun when I was like 4 years old. I had a 20-gauge shotgun when I was 6 years old. I’ve been a part of the Rixie deer camp my whole life. …

You tell those guys that you’re taking their guns and they get upset. Like I understand it. I’ve grown up with it, but I’m with you. What’s happening with kids and what’s happening with gun violence — there’s gotta be a solution. And we’ve got to come to the table and start having discussions from both sides. All of us, no matter how we stand on it, all of us will agree that it.

The mass killing is unacceptable. But I also know, when I was growing up, you couldn’t have an automatic weapon machine gun. You had to get it registered. Like 1928, if I remember, there was a machine gun law or automatic weapon law. And yeah, they can say that an M16 or an AK-47 isn’t fully automatic, but come on. You pull that trigger down, you can pull it down faster than you can get those bullets to come out. I’ve done it. I’m also ex-military and I understand weapons. But you know, I also went through gun safety training and hunter education in the fourth grade at 10 years old. That’s the culture that I grew up in. And I know how to handle a gun and I know what a gun can do, but that doesn’t stop people that shouldn’t have the guns in their hands.

We could talk about red flag laws. If there’s people that that literally have restraining orders against them because of fear of violence toward their partner or a family member, that person shouldn’t be able to go get an automatic weapon. There’s no way that an 18-year-old high school senior should be able to go out and purchase a weapon. I know they can go to war. I’ve given that argument in my life. It’s time to talk.

RODNEY: From a military perspective, as much training as I’ve gotten on an M16A2, I have no problem with a veteran going out and getting an AR-15 if that’s what they want to do. I’m not a fan of red flag laws in all aspects because when you start flagging people for mental health reasons, right?

STEVE: Right.

RODNEY: You start infringing on people’s rights and I don’t want to do that. But I think that there can be some solutions. There can be some compromise. And I think we can accomplish all of this. Number one, preserving life instead of loss of life. And number two, preserving our rights instead of loss of rights. I think we can do both, but we can’t do it just with a knee-jerk reaction, and we can’t do it without having a conversation.

And I think from an automatic perspective, even a semi-automatic perspective, a lot of people try to give out the excuse that they go hunting with their AR-15. If you’re hunting with the AR-15, I’m going to have to question how accurately you can shoot.

STEVE: Well, and come on. You don’t want to take an AR-15 hunting. I promise.

RODNEY: I have to ask how good really are you, right? Because an AR-15, that’s an assault weapon. That’s a weapon of war that was intended to help clear rooms, small arms, close combat. That’s what that weapon is designed for. Now, I understand you got some big game out there. I get it, right? If you want to go down to Texas, you want to hunt those boar down there, I get it. However, I don’t think you need an AR-15 to go hunting on a regular with a couple of deer tags or even if you want to go and hunt gator. I don’t think an AR-15 is necessary. I think you can get by with far less than an AR-15 or an assault style weapon.

STEVE: Look, I’m a hunter. If I’m going to go out and spend the money on a tag and spend the money on gear and pay for my camo and pay for my orange and take time off and sit in a stand when it’s 35 or 40 degrees, and walk out when it’s 4:30 in the morning and sit there in the ice cold, I’m not taking an AR-15 with me. I’m taking something I’m going to knock a deer down like a 30-06. Come on.

Anyone that’s using that saying that they hunt with these AK-47s and these AR-15s, that is a bogus lie. I’ll guarantee you that less than 5% of all AR-15s are used to hunt.

RODNEY: I hunted with my M16A2 and my M203 when I was in Iraq — we were hunting terrorists. I was hunting the insurgency in 2003 to 2004. We were using a deck of cards to figure out what they looked like and we would go out there and find them. That’s what you go hunt with those weapons for. You don’t go hunt a deer.

STEVE: Well, you and I, being ex-military, both know this. The M16 weapon was designed with one purpose in mind, and that is to kill human beings. It was designed to do the maximum damage to a human body. It is why the M16 was made, and the AR-15 is simply a commercial version of the M16A1.

RODNEY: Well, the M16 was designed that, and it’s one of the sturdiest weapons for a reason, because it was designed to withstand a beating. You could drop that thing in mud. You could be in the middle of a torrential downpour, right? That firing pin’s still going off. It’s a wonderfully designed weapon of war. Again, war. If you feel like you are at war at your home, we need to discuss your living situation.

Nobody — and let me make this clear, even when I’m elected, nobody — is coming to your house to take your guns. But if you’re going to sit here and make me choose between my children and my weapon, I am going to give up my weapon to keep my children safe, right?

Accountability is another thing; there’s a lack of accountability here. In all these school shootings, most of the kids with guns, it’s not their weapon. It’s dad’s, it’s grandpa’s, right? 

Accountability is another thing; there’s a lack of accountability here. In all these school shootings, most of these kids, it’s not their weapon. It’s dad’s, it’s grandpa’s, right? 

My first question is how did (the shooter) get it? If you properly lock up your weapon, then he’s not gonna get it. And if you’re not properly locking it up, or if you’re sharing the safe code, or if you’re allowing them to go in and get it at any time, in my mind, you are just as accountable, and you need to have some consequences too. This is a no-brainer.

STEVE: I agree. I think that when a weapon is used for a school shooting or for a mass shooting, you trace that number back, and whoever that gun is registered to needs to suffer the same consequences as if they pulled the trigger, period. And people can say, oh, it could be stolen. That’s your responsibility as well. You better have control of the weapon and the bullets. And if it’s been stolen, you better promptly let people know that before something’s happened. If there’s a shooting that happens and comes back and you go, oh, well, somebody stole my weapon. Well, then you should have had it in a locked place. You’re responsible for it. You go to prison for murder.

 

RODNEY: And I don’t know if that’s the answer, but I know that there’s gotta be some kind of level of accountability because, maybe murder is a far reach, right? Maybe manslaughter is a far reach, but there has to be some level of accountability because right now we’re not seeing that. And I know a lot of people want to bash the current generation of kids, myself included from time to time. I’m like the old man screaming, get your cats off my lawn, right? But when we don’t hold ourselves accountable, how in the world can we turn around and hold these kids accountable? And they’re watching us. Trust and believe that. They’re watching us.

And it pains me because I love kids. I love my niece. I’m so pro-life I serve as a CASA with foster kids.

STEVE: CASA means Court Appointed Special Advocate, you’re a court-appointed advocate for foster children and kids in the state’s care.

RODNEY: Right. And I am pro-children to the core. So it pains me whenever stuff like this happens with school shootings. When my foster kids go through their active shooter drills and they look at me and they ask me, “man, what in the world? So people love guns more than they love kids?”

And that is a hard question to hear because that is the perception that our children have. The issue is not just limited to Parkland down in Florida, right? Our state doesn’t have the greatest history — for example, the school shooting in Jonesboro in 1998. We’ve got to come to a point as adults and have uncomfortable conversations around the 2nd Amendment.

The founding fathers left it as a living, breathing document for a reason. We can always amend it. We can always figure it out, right? And when I read it, it says “well-regulated militia.” We have one.

The founding fathers left it as a living, breathing document for a reason. We can always amend it. We can always figure it out, right? And when I read it, it says “well-regulated militia.” We have one. The United States Army, the United States Air Force, the United States Navy — not going to mention the Marine Corps because they don’t even have their own department, but you know, I’ll rib them a little bit with that.

But we have a well-regulated militia. 

STEVE: Can I … I want to take the devil’s advocate on that because there is a second interpretation that our U.S. Supreme Court has not made: that this “well-regulated militia” argument is where people say that they can have these weapons of war and these automatic weapons — weapons that are meant to be to kill people, not to kill animals or to protect yourself, they’re an offensive weapon — they’ll argue that the “well-regulated militia” phrase means that we have a right as citizens to stand up against our government.

The people involved on January 6th in that insurrection were crying “we have the right to fight our government, to raise arms against our government.”

But I’m here to tell you, having a weapon on your own in your house is not a well-regulated militia.

RODNEY: That part.

This is what people keep forgetting — and it’s cherry picking, and I’m tired of the cherry picking, right? The document clearly states — and if you’re a constitutionalist, you can’t disagree — it says right there, three words: “well-regulated militia.” Regulated. Which means you don’t just get to go with your buddies and stockpile a bunch of guns and go get an MRAP or an M1A1 tank and just have it out in the middle of the woods and nobody knows — because that’s not “regulated.”

And it says “well-regulated,” which means that you’re subject to audits. You’re subject to visits from the very government that you claim you may have to fight one day.

It is what it is.

You can’t have it your way, but you can have it this way. And if this way is not working, the founding fathers allowed us to amend this document and bring it up to speed as society progresses.

And I tell people all the time, because I am in fact “pro-life.” I work in the foster care space. I used to be a foster kid. I love my foster kids when nobody else seems to. And I live in the state of Arkansas where my governor says, we’re “the most pro-life state in the union.”

But really, how pro-life are we?

“Pro-life” to me is making sure that we take care of the 4 ,400 kids that we’ve got in foster care in Arkansas. Right now we’ve only got 1,500 approved homes. So that’s not very pro-life.

“Pro-life” to me is making sure that our elderly are taken care of, and that our elderly living on fixed incomes don’t have to worry about and live in fear of medical expenses pricing them out of house and home.

They shouldn’t have to worry about that. They shouldn’t have to worry about their Medicare. They shouldn’t have to worry about the price of insulin. They shouldn’t have to worry about the price of prosthetics.

They should be able to retire, live on their fixed income, and enjoy life — that’s “pro-life.”

Life may start at inception or at birth, wherever you choose to believe it starts — but that’s not where it ends. It’s not supposed to. Life ends when life ends.

I love our country. I love what the premise is. I think life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the right of all American citizens, regardless of where you’re born. I don’t think where you’re born or how much money your family has should be a hindrance. I don’t think it should be an advantage or disadvantage.

Everybody should be able to go out and pursue life, liberty, and happiness. It’s pretty hard to pursue life, liberty, and happiness for the teenagers and teachers who have to cower in a corner because somebody’s got an AR-15 in their high school.

Everybody should be able to go out and pursue life, liberty, and happiness. It’s pretty hard to pursue life, liberty, and happiness for the teenagers and teachers who have to cower in a corner because somebody’s got an AR-15 in their high school.

Kids have to worry about so much more than I had to worry about, even me as a teenager in foster care. And I came up during Columbine. I remember the “trenchcoat mafia.”

We throw out terms like “pro-life” and we throw out the hashtag “save the children” and we talk all this great game, but this is where it boils down to. Gun regulations and finding a way to protect rights and reduce the mass shootings.

This issue proves how pro-life are you? Do you really want to save the children? What are you willing to do in order to make sure that not another child gets shot?

What can we do in this country? We have to start having that particular conversation.

For all the “pro-lifers,” for all the “medical freedomers,” for every single person, constitutionalists, for every conservative, for every liberal — I don’t care where you fall on this thing.

We need to talk, and we need to propose actual solutions to problems and not hide behind some hot-button topic that seems to never wanna be brought to the floor when sessions actually start.

STEVE: Well, Rodney, I appreciate you and I appreciate that you’re out there having the hard conversations and bringing up the hard questions for us to talk about. It’s what we need in a Congressman and I appreciate what you’re doing.

Any last messages you want to tell the audience, how they can get in touch with the campaign, where they can reach you, maybe where they can see you or anything before we go?

RODNEY: Absolutely. We’re deep into our Riding with Rodney initiative, going across all the counties in Arkansas’ 1st District. I want to tour and visit with folks in every single county and actually get the download of the local historic significance of places in each county.

A lot of times you read about places, but you don’t know the story because nobody’s really talking at the local level. And I want to talk to the people and have somebody local take me around for a couple hours, show me your town, show me what makes it unique.

We’re deep into that initiative, and if anybody is interested in that, you can visit our website, rodneyforcongress.org. Sign up to volunteer and be our tour guide for the Riding with Rodney visit for your specific town. Or you can email us at hello@rodneyforcongress.org.

I’m massively excited to get out and talk to people because we don’t have that kind of representation, but it definitely is the kind of representation we need.

STEVE: I agree, it’s time for people to stand up, and I’m glad that you are out there motivating everybody. This has been Riding with Rodney Govens podcast. Here in Arkansas, he’s running for Congress over on the eastern side of the state, from the Delta all the way up to northern Arkansas and north-central Arkansas to Harrison. It’s a big district. Thank you for being here today Rodney and we’ll see you out there.

RODNEY: Thank you, Steve.

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