Injured Kalamazoo Victim's Father Puts Gun Violence Issue To Democrats
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The Uber driver accused in last month's shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Mich., has been charged with six counts of murder. Two other victims were seriously wounded. One of the survivors is 14-year-old Abigail Kopf. And last Sunday, Abigail's father, Gene Kopf, put a question to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Mich.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GENE KOPF: The man who shot everyone, including my daughter, in Kalamazoo had no mental health issues reported and had a clear background. What do you plan to do to address this serious epidemic? I don't want to hear anything about tougher laws for mental health or criminal backgrounds because that doesn't work.
BLOCK: And Gene Kopf joins us now from Grand Rapids. Welcome to the program, Mr. Kopf.
KOPF: Thank you.
BLOCK: I want to ask you first about how your daughter 's doing. She was shot in the head. She was critically wounded. How is Abigail?
KOPF: She is recuperating. It's - physically, she's in good health. As far as the injuries to her head, it's day by day to see what has been lost or not lost. Her personality is certainly there. She has a sense of humor. She comprehends what's going on with her. She writes on a board. She has just picked up the ability to say a word or so. She obviously can't have a conversation yet, but things are looking optimistic and no one can give a prognosis. The doctors have said the only answer is time, and we'll just see.
BLOCK: Do you know if she remembers what happened? Can you tell?
KOPF: She says she remembers everything, but the question is what does everything mean.
BLOCK: Well, let's turn to your question at the debate last Sunday. I wonder if you were satisfied with the answers you heard from Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders.
KOPF: Quite honestly, unfortunately, the answer I got was exactly what I said don't give me. Clinton immediately jumped into background checks, which is checking for criminal history and mental health issues. And that's specifically what I said I didn't want to hear.
BLOCK: And what about Senator Sanders?
KOPF: Well, Senator Sanders started to respond to what she said. So unfortunately he went down that rabbit hole, too. However, the next day I was scheduled to go just to a Sanders rally and stand in the audience. When I got there, I was ushered into a room and a little while later Senator Sanders landed his jet and he took the time to check on the status of Abigail and at the same time have a chat with me. And what he emphasized was that the gun control issue is there is no magic wand that's going to make it just go away. It's going to be a complicated issue.
And he comes from a hunting state of Vermont, and he sees no problem with hunting, and nor do I. To be honest, I hunt. Abigail grew up on a lot of venison, so I'm not totally against guns. I just want someone to address a serious shooting epidemic that is clearly taking place in our country.
BLOCK: One of the things that Secretary Clinton said in answer to your question was we have to try everything that works. Senator Sanders said we have to do everything we possibly can. Did you have ideas - since you didn't want to hear about criminal background, you didn't want to hear about mental health, did you have some ideas of things that you think could work?
KOPF: My personal suspicion having seen it where I live is there is a gun culture. There is a culture of fear in our country where people are now seeing their - this is in quotes - right to go around carrying pistols and open-carry assault weapons everywhere out of fear.
BLOCK: Mr. Kopf, the 9 mm handgun that the alleged shooter used when he shot your daughter was apparently legally owned. He apparently had no criminal history. What could have prevented him from having that gun that you would've wanted to see?
KOPF: No one should really, unless they have a compelling reason, such as law enforcement, security or stuff, I really don't see a need for everybody to be carrying pistols all over the place. That would've prevented it. He had no justification to have it.
BLOCK: Well, Mr. Kopf, we wish you all the best and, of course, all the best to Abigail in her recovery. Thanks for talking with us.
KOPF: Oh, thank you very much.
BLOCK: Gene Kopf, his 14-year-old daughter Abigail was critically wounded in last month's shooting rampage in Kalamazoo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.