Killer Mike and his political views: gun rights to Bernie Sanders

In an interview with The Signal, Killer Mike shares his political views and the importance of educating and investing in the youth. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Michael Render, better known as Killer Mike, is known to some as a talented and respected musician and to others as a political organizer and advocate. But whether through his activism or messages in his music, he aims to improve the political and economic climate for younger generations to come. 

Render supports a broad range of policies, such as “responsible gun ownership” and “compassionate capitalism,” generally considered right wing, while also passionately supporting Bernie Sanders for the 2020 presidential campaign, one of the most left-wing candidates on the field. 

Render says he unashamedly practices compassionate capitalism in a way that allows him to help his community. For Render, his main concern is working the system as effectively as he can rather than fighting the system and not reaping any benefits for himself or his community.

Render attributes his social and political views to his very diverse background. Growing up, he experienced what he describes as black economic and political power shared with a white political base.

“My social views were shaped because I grew up in Atlanta, I grew up in a very special place,” Render said. “It’s a city that, throughout most of my life, has been 50/50, black and white. It’s been black economic and political power shared with a white power base. And, at times, it’s been tumultuous, but for the most part, people have always worked for the greater good.”

Render is a strong proponent of responsible gun ownership. 

“It’s not something I argue or go back and forth with. It’s just simply this: The gun, the ballot box, the bullet box and the jewelry box are the three things that Frederick Douglass said are essential to freedom for the African American,” Render said.

Render referenced another prominent figure in African American history for this belief as well.

“Ida B. Wells said that the Winchester rifle, which is comparable to any semi-automatic rifle today, deserved a place of honor in every African American household,” he said. “I’m going to lean to the wisdom of their understanding, and I’m never going to disarm myself so long as I live within the borders of this country.”

He also attributes his views on gun ownership to being raised in the South. Render doesn’t believe it is wise for African Americans to give up a way of defending themselves only 55 years into freedom.  

“I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, where in 1906, there was a huge race riot here about blacks creating a middle class and poor whites resenting that,” Render said. “There have just been times where black people have had to defend themselves.” 

Outside of the African American community, Render still believes gun ownership is important as well. 

“For the greater community, you have a president [that] 40-50% of the country is now comparing to tyrannical white nationalist leaders,” Render said. “I don’t understand why a population of people who call themselves ‘free’ would be willing to then give up said firearms to said leader or government or the leader of that government.”

Even though he is opposed to limiting access to guns for responsible gun owners and calls himself a compassionate capitalist, Render is continuing his vocal support of Bernie Sanders for the 2020 presidential election. 

While his views and those of Bernie Sanders might seem at odds, Render does not see a contradiction. 

“You’re going to have some conflicts with people you’re friends with, even if you agree on other policy matters. I believe that the American people are not going to give up the right to own guns; that’s what will allow me to be a part of his campaign,” Render said. “From a common sense perspective, crime isn’t going up; it’s going down … people aren’t getting killed by AR-15s; they’re getting killed by people who don’t know how to use pistols. But what’s bigger than that is the other [tenets] of the Sanders campaign.”  

Render believes the most compelling part of the Sanders campaign is its stance on healthcare. 

“[Firearms policy] sounds exciting, but most people, even who own a firearm, are not going to have to fire that firearm, but most people are going to get sick at some point, and I want to make sure that you getting sick and having to go to the emergency room, as a college student, doesn’t turn into a $5,000 debt against your credit,” he said.  

Render’s views on the youth are something that particularly drives both his music and political ideology.

“I have been lucky enough to have had a lot of people [who] have invested in me when I was younger,” Render said. “Young leadership deserves a voice and I am reciprocating the energy that was given to me.” 

Being able to converse with those that disagree with you is one of Render’s biggest tips for the younger generation. 

“Be willing to listen to those people that disagree with you because I have learned more sitting at tables in which I had disagreements with people because I got the chance to understand and look at separate perspectives,” Render said.

Render believes the younger generation deserves to be educated. Though he does not know the specific struggles every student at Georgia State faces, Render feels that by investing in the youth, he can be confident in the leadership of the future. 

“Investing in [young people] is the smartest thing I can do,” Render said. “I need to make sure that the people who take handlebars in 10 years are qualified to do so and that they aren’t so burdened with debt and anxiety that they are nervous to pull the [trigger] on things that really work in a more effective way policy wise.”