On February 26, 2018 the American Enterprise Institute, “a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world,” hosted an event, Reforming Foster Care Systems at the State Level, at which Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin was a keynote speaker. During the panel discussion and Q&A session following Governor Bevin’s initial remarks, he provided one of the best responses I’ve heard to a question addressing gun violence in schools, specifically in reference to the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Governor Bevin’s commentary was thoughtful, truthful, and unencumbered by impulsivity and knee-jerk emotion.
Following is the audio and the complete transcript of the exchange between Evan Davies, who posed the question, and Governor Bevin.
Click play and scroll down to read along.
Q: Hi. My name is Evan Davies, and I’m just an independent consultant. I’m not affiliated with any organization. I really admire the work that you’re doing to help foster children. And you’ve said a number of times that, you know, the children’s lives are most important. We had a murder a little while ago, where 17 people, including many kids, were murdered in their schools. And how do you reconcile that children’s lives are most important with the comments you made to the media about it’s naive and premature to talk about gun control and that it’s culture and not guns that is causing these horrible things?
GOV. BEVIN: I’ll tell you exactly how I reconcile that. First of all, a month ago, in Kentucky, we had this very similar situation — made a very concerted effort to make
sure that we removed the media circus from the healing process. So within 24 to 48 hours, you’re probably not even aware, most people aren’t, that I had a 15-year-old come into a school in Kentucky last month and shoot 16 children at point blank range, two of whom died. A set of twins were both shot and taken to a level-one trauma center. They lived.
This is very real to me. I’ve sat with these families. You also probably are not aware of the fact that I buried my oldest child. Died under different circumstances but went to school and didn’t come home. She was 17 years old. I know exactly — not exactly. It’s not possible to know exactly what another person’s going through. But I know exactly what it feels like to bury your oldest child. I know what the impact is on a family. I don’t come at this with a sense of sympathy but empathy.
The point that I’ve made, it’s been largely misconstrued. I’ll reaffirm with you and tell you exactly where it comes from. This idea, just as solving this issue, is able to be solved with a single law or a rule or change is naive and delusional. And so we shouldn’t allow ourselves to entertain naive and delusional thoughts. It is part of a broader construct, just as this issue is. And the point that I made that I’ll reiterate is that if we think that a part of what we are seeing is not a cultural problem, we’re kidding ourselves.
And the point that I’ve made is this: What has shifted in the last 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years? It’s not the percentage of guns that we find in homes. And you can give me a statistic that there’s now more guns. Fair enough. I’ll submit that that may be true. I’m not going to argue with you. But the reality is there’s fewer homes that have guns in them than there were 50 years ago when children didn’t walk into schools and shoot themselves and shoot each other. That’s a fact. You can confirm that.
But I’ll tell you this. When I was a kid, kids brought guns to school. Kids brought guns on the school bus. They brought guns to school in their own vehicles. Kids didn’t shoot each other with them. So some things have not changed. What has changed, we as a culture, as a society — and it’s very germane to this topic as well. We don’t value human life like we did. We remove increasingly respect for the dignity of other people. You look at how rampant pornography is, the degradation and disrespect for women and for human life in general. It is so systemic.
People of our age have not been exposed like our children have been. There’s not a child in America that hasn’t been exposed to pornography, I guarantee you, if they’re above the age of 12. That’s a fact. It is so systemic; it’s horrific. And it desensitizes us at every turn. And so we’re desensitized to the value and dignity of human life.
We’re desensitized through — and this is to the heart of what I said that you seem to take exception with — is that through violent video games, where literally you are encouraged — you can roll your eyes all you want, ma’am, but I’ll say this. You explain to me the value of a game that encourages somebody to go back and finish him off, where you get points for kill counts and you slaughter people. We’re desensitizing people to the value of life. And we see it through the lyrics in music and we see it through television shows and we see it through movies. We see it in the fact that the mores of this nation have changed. And we
see it to the fact that we increasingly want to remove any sense of moral authority from everything.
And here’s — I’ll tell you again. We could have 1,000 sidebars, and you could agree or disagree as it relates to what I’m about to say. But in a nation where over the last 40 years we’ve aborted 50 something million children and we have multiple states with medically assisted suicide being provided by doctors, at both ends of the life spectrum, we’re losing the value for life that we once historically had. You can say that’s good; you can say it’s bad. But it’s a reality.
You couple that with the fact that all these other things are changing, that we’re removing any sense of authority. It used to be that you had different levels of authority, starting in the home itself. Only a third of children in a recent Pew study say that they have no interaction for all intents and purpose with their own parents when their parents live in the home. They say their parents have no clue what they’re even learning in school.
There was a study recently in an article that was derived from that and other studies. It was in The Atlantic. I encourage you to look it up, about the impact — and, again, you can smirk and you can smile, but as somebody who’s an independent consultant, I find it remarkable that you’re so smug and you’re so disregarding of my opinion, when, in fact, I’m just trying to have an honest dialogue with you based on a fair question.
But I will say this, look at this article in The Atlantic. This article in The Atlantic talks about how young people are increasingly becoming suicidal and depressed because of the use of social media and the use of these personal devices and on-screen time. All of these are part of a cultural issue, and this cultural issue, if we’re not addressing it, we are kidding ourselves because it also affects this issue we came here to talk about today, which is why these homes are broken, why so many children are finding themselves in government care, which is not the best solution. The government should not be raising our children, period. It just shouldn’t.
The fact of the matter is we need people in the position like I am — and I had the same conversation less than an hour ago with the president of the United States, and I said to him he should, I should, this whole room is full of cabinet secretaries and governors of other states. Those of us who are in a position of influence and the ability to say something, shame on us if we don’t step up and call people to a higher authority. And there will always be those, including many in the media, whoever the messenger is, that are going to find the imperfection in that messenger.
So if the messenger says we should do X, Y, Z as it relates to this issue or adoption of foster care, people will say, well, who is this person? They’re an imperfect person. Well, so is every one of us. There’s not a perfect person in America, but that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for perfection. There’s not a perfectly morally upright person in America. That doesn’t mean we don’t espouse and aspire to reach for moral higher authority and expect more and demand more of our children. Shame on us if we don’t sound the alarm. You want to take any kind of morality and change the mores of a nation, remove any sense of higher
responsibility, try to pin it on any one thing and assume the government and a piece of regulation and a rule is the solution and then we’re shocked when these things happen? We’re kidding ourselves.
(Above TRANSCRIPt PROVIDED BY DC TRANSCRIPTION — WWW.DCTMR.COM)
It reminds me of Governor Mike Huchabee’s recent comment addressing the problematic issue with the March for Our Lives protests, “I salute these students for their passion and their energy, and for their interest in helping to shape public policy, but I would say this to them: Emotion is a terrible substitute for truth,“ only better. [RELATED POST: Do Your Homework]
Watch Reforming Foster Care Systems at the State Level in its entirety here: