Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt refuses to back down from his decision to give away an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, similar to the one used by the Orlando shooter, at a fundraiser this weekend. In fact, Holt says he will now give away two of them. He insists that the weapon, which is similar to the one used in Orlando, is not to blame for the massacre.
Here & Now's Robin Young talks with Holt, who represents three counties in the northwestern corner of the state, about his decision.
Interview Highlights: Andy Holt
On giving away the rifles in the wake of Orlando
"I think that this particular terrorist would love the fact that his actions would have begotten and erosion of Constitutional rights for law abiding Americans. So what we want to do is say, first of all, we're going to celebrate the Second Amendment and really what we are going to do is even more at this point now than ever. We need to recognize that the actions of a nefarious person should not cripple the rights of law abiding citizens."
On proposals to restrict people on terror watch lists from buying guns
"I think that we need to be careful. In the same way that I don't want to be profiled, by saying, 'Hey listen this guy lives in this spot, he's really outspoken and really right leaning.' I don't want to just profile and say well, 'Everyone who is Islamic, or everyone who is this, or everyone who is that, is going to be specifically profiled but when an individual meets certain criteria, on multiple occasions,' then I think it's at that point that FBI investigations or other types of investigations which are supposed to be enforcing these no-fly lists. But the idea that we would give over our Constitutional rights and say, you know what, we don't need to protect ourselves - the intent the founders gave to us - we'll let government provide that for us. Well, I don't trust that. I don't trust the government to keep my safety in check either."
"We need to recognize that the actions of a nefarious person should not cripple the rights of law abiding citizens."Andy Holt, on giving away the guns in the wake of the Orlando shooting
On requiring or not requiring background checks
"I think that what we see is that when you do that you place a burden on all these folks. There's a significant cost associated with that background check and that's honestly, a lot of firearms dealers make as much money off of the background check as they do off the firearm. So what we see is any inhibition to a lawful individual to purchase that firearm, in my opinion, is again, a further infringement on that right. The Second Amendment clearly says, 'the right shall not be infringed.'"
On expanding background checks to include gun shows sales and online sales
"In my education, I'm an economist my trade, what we recognize is that taxes and tariffs, penalties and fees provided by government, yeah we could do a background check on every gun, everywhere. What I see is ultimately that leads to a reduction of the opportunity for people to get protection for themselves. I can tell you I put out a request five or six days ago, and I said that I would give our five concealed carry permits to five individuals who would contact my office. With that over 1,000 phone calls, do you know a ton of the folks, it really did surprise me, what we see is that anytime we add a cost to a constitutional right, it puts the poorest and those with the least capacity in the most unsafe position. When we increase the cost of possessing a firearm, we decrease the number of lawful firearms that give people the protection and the great equalizer that they need to tackle crime."
On receiving death threats for planning to give away the guns
"In my tenure as a state representative death threats have been a pretty common occurrence unfortunately for me. We've had calls to our home, threatening the life of my wife and children, and my views on traditional family values, traditional marriage have begotten my several death threats as well. But this particular situation which is extremely odd is that people who are anti-gun are calling and treating gun violence as a sitting state legislator."
This segment aired on June 24, 2016.
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