On Monday night Jered Townsend of Clio, Michigan got a question into the fourth Democratic debate: Would the candidates protect his "baby"? The baby he was referring to was a Bushmaster AR-15.
Sen. Joe Biden shook his head at Townsend, saying "I'll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help" and "I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun."
Last night I called up Townsend to ask him what he thought of Biden's answer and the audience's loud applause for the senator.
Reason: What went through your mind when you saw yourself on TV getting called out by a presidential candidate?
Jered Townsend: I just couldn't believe the video got onto CNN. So I was thinking: "Is this really on?" I couldn't really believe it.
Reason: And what about the candidates' answers?
JT: Richardson tried to answer it, but it was a limited timeframe and he didn't get much time to answer. Joe Biden totally did not answer it. He took the fastest and easiest way to blow it off that he could find. But, you know, no skin off my back.
Reason: No skin off your back? He basically called you a lunatic.
JT: No, not really. I just laughed when he said that. He made himself look stupid and he didn't answer my question. Anybody who knows me knows different.
Reason: And when the room applauded his answer?
JT: Again, no skin off my back.
Reason: Are you really a Democrat?
JT: You know, I don't really vote by party, I go on a person by person basis. [Ed: Townsend has made no federal political donations.] If you're asking whether I'm a liberal or a conservative, I'm a little bit more liberal, except on Social Security and oil prices.
Reason: And the Second Amendment.
JT: Yes! That's a sticking point.
Reason: Back to the debate… I think Biden's snap response to your video was so snippy because he thought you looked crazy. Why did you call the gun "my baby?"
JT: First off, I used the word "baby" because I was sitting there thinking of a way to stand out, and me talking about a "baby" makes the judges think: "Oh, this guy is against guns." And then I revealed what I was talking about. I wanted a bold statement and I wanted it to be effective—to stick in your mind and stay there.
Reason: What was the point you were making about the 1994 gun ban?
JT: Well, I bought that Bushmaster AR-15 under the ban. Biden said he supported the ban, so maybe he was thinking the gun I was holding I bought outside the law. But the ban is all cosmetic: They attack the guns that look mean because they want to set a tone.
Reason: What do you use it for?
JT: I do target practice with it. I hunt coyote with it. It's a good varmint rifle.
Reason: So why were you wearing shorts and a tank top?
JT: Because that's what you wear in the middle of July in Michigan when it's 100 percent humidity. I don't know what Joe Biden wears in his air-conditioned limousine or his private jet. But I should say that I tried to write Biden about this. I sent him an email, saying "come to come Clio, I want to talk to you, we'll sit down and talk about this issue."
Reason: What'd he say?
JT: No response yet. And I sent a phone message and an e-mail.
Reason: You were undecided going into the debate. Did the debate change your mind at all?
JT: I'm still mostly undecided but the odds of supporting Joe Biden have expired and disappeared completely.