© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sen. Rounds On Congress' Role In Preventing Mass Shootings, The Immigration Debate


Senator Mike Rounds is with us next. He's a Republican senator, former governor of South Dakota. Senator, welcome back to the program.

MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you, appreciate the opportunity to visit.

INSKEEP: What if anything should Congress be doing about mass shootings?

ROUNDS: You know, I think, number one, you have to recognize that our most valuable assets are our kids. And yet at the same time, when we talk start talking about the security activities that we've done so far, we've tried. But in many cases, we probably haven't looked at exactly what it's going to take to provide multiple lines of defense around schools. Nobody wants to see schools turned into armed fortresses. And yet compare that with just walking into this office building right here. If you walk into this office building right here, there's locked doors to begin with. You've got to be allowed in one at a time. There's cameras there. Then you go into the front desk where you are then ID'ed. And then you're able to come in with an escort into the rest of the building. Compare that with what happens at a school. So what I think we have to be talking about if we really want to do this is to look at whether or not we're prepared to put resources in place that will actually allow for multiple lines of defense on a school-by-school basis.

INSKEEP: I got to be frank though. If someone showed up with an AR-15 at this building where we are right now, I'm not sure they'd be prevented by the locked door from getting in.

ROUNDS: I think you could say that about just about any type of a weapon. Everybody talks about the AR-15 in particular. AR-15 is simply one of a series. I think people only start talking about an assault weapon. When you define what an assault weapon is versus a weapon of any kind, it sounds more terrifying. And yet the end result can be the same. The challenge really is not just identifying that you're going to try to identify a weapon - a particular weapon. But rather what will you - what can you do to stop a number of different types of weapons?

INSKEEP: I want to be really frank here, Senator. Some people will know you got an A-rating from the National Rifle Association - not a big fan of gun control. Many Republicans in Congress - most Republicans in Congress are not. And gun control proposals have been stopped. But you are one of 535 men and women hired by the United States to address problems. And this is an ongoing problem that Congress has not found a way to address. Is this something that is Congress's business to address?

ROUNDS: Congress has a role to play. But if all the emphasis is on a particular weapon, that it sounds really good to say we've done something.

INSKEEP: Like an assault weapons ban?

ROUNDS: Yeah. Or you can call any type of a series of different types of guns assault weapon, and suddenly then they become a demonized item. And then suddenly it sounds like we've done something. The reality is there's a whole lot of different types of weapons that can be utilized whether you're talking about a handgun, or you're talking about a shotgun, or you're talking about a rifle. Or for that matter, you're talking about...

INSKEEP: But some are deadlier than others in the hands of a person.

ROUNDS: Yep. Well, you take a look at what a shotgun can do.

INSKEEP: Understood.

ROUNDS: And understand very clearly that that can be dangerous as well. All I'm saying is let's start talking about, first of all, providing for defense just like we do in airports because if we started looking at those types of defensive lines, now you make it a whole lot more difficult for someone who really wants to make a name for themselves - to be able to come into an area where you don't have other areas of defense. So - but there's more to that. There's also the concept that we've got here that somehow if we focus only on gun control, that somehow that fixes all of the other types of weapons that are also available.

INSKEEP: But the other fixes are not there either. That's my question. Is Congress failing?

ROUNDS: I think we can do a better job. But at this stage of the game it all comes back down to whether or not we want to go after the Second Amendment or not. And so for those individuals who look at the Second Amendment and favor it very, very, you know, strongly - like I do. I think the Second Amendment is there for a reason. If you start using it as an excuse - saying, you know, look. All we have to do - all we have to do is take away one particular type of a weapon - that suddenly becomes the discussion point. And suddenly we all feel good about having done something. And in reality, we haven't done something.

INSKEEP: Yeah, we are in the middle of a dramatic week of news. I know that you're deeply engaged in the immigration debate that's going on now in the United States Senate. I want to ask briefly about that. You were cosponsor of a bipartisan piece of legislation that I think we can say narrows down the immigration focus. This would be legal status for people brought to the United States as children who don't have legal status now. It would be border security. What are the odds of getting that through?

ROUNDS: I don't think it's very good today. But I think long term, the odds improve. First of all, remember that in the middle of this process, we have to provide the president with an opportunity to have his proposal, which is going to be offered as Chairman Grassley's proposal. And so the leadership most certainly wants to provide that opportunity for the president to come in. Now leadership has set this up, so that we'll vote on several different items first. I think ours if it had been offered last probably would have garnered more than 60 votes to move forward to be a vehicle to actually get something done.

INSKEEP: I know the president's demanding more. He wants reductions to legal immigration as part of this bill. Why would your fellow Republicans though not just go along with the narrower bill if that's what could pass?

ROUNDS: Well, I think, as a courtesy, they're going to want a vote on this - the chairman's mark. And I don't think the chairman's mark will receive enough votes from both sides of the...

INSKEEP: The chairman's mark that's closer to the president's proposal.

ROUNDS: Right. And look. I'm going to vote for the chairman's mark to show that - in solidarity with them. But even with that, I don't think the Democrats will. So this is the closest thing we have. I think we'll get more votes than the chairman's mark does.

INSKEEP: Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, thanks for coming by - really good to see you again.

ROUNDS: Thank you - appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEEB'S "ROOFTOPS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.