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When it comes to guns, Dr. Ben Carson still doesn't get it

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Dr. Ben Carson, considered by some a potential "conservative" candidate for President in 2016, stumbled badly back in March, at least among gun rights advocates, when he blithely told Glenn Beck on Beck's The Blaze radio show that the right to own semi-automatic firearms is contingent on where one lives. As quoted in Mediate:

But when asked whether people should be allowed to own “semi-automatic weapons,” the doctor replied: “It depends on where you live.”

“I think if you live in the midst of a lot of people, and I’m afraid that that semi-automatic weapon is going to fall into the hands of a crazy person, I would rather you not have it,” Carson elaborated.

However, if you live “out in the country somewhere by yourself” and want to own a semi-automatic weapon, he added, “I’ve no problem with that.”

In other words, shall not be infringed evidently applies only to hermits.

Since then, it appears likely that Carson's advisers have prevailed on him to pipe down on that subject, because for the most part he has--until now. Writing for the Washington Times Tuesday, Carson rhetorically asks, "Why did the founding fathers give us the Second Amendment?" Some of us will be instantly put on guard, just by the title. While it is not inaccurate to say that the Founding Fathers "gave" us the Second Amendment, people who word it that way seem to have a tendency to carry that thought further, and argue that the Second Amendment "gives" us the right to keep and bear arms. The illustration accompanying the article reinforces that theme, referring to the Bill of Rights as the "license to operate" firearms.

The Supreme Court knows better, and has since at least the United States v. Cruikshank decision in 1876, with the relevant passage cited 132 years later in District of Columbia v. Heller (emphasis added):

We look to this because it has always been widely understood that the Second Amendment, like the First and Fourth Amendments, codified a pre-existing right. The very text of the Second Amendment implicitly recognizes the pre-existence of the right and declares only that it “shall not be infringed.” As we said in United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U. S. 542, 553 (1876), “[t]his is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The Second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed. . . .

Granted, early in the article, Carson does not argue that the Second Amendment "gives" us the right to keep and bear arms (he rightly refers to it as "guaranteeing the right of the people to keep and bear arms"), and he should probably not be blamed for the accompanying artwork.

Of greater concern in Carson's piece is his thinking on how to reconcile gun rights advocacy with "gun control" efforts, as if the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms is subject to compromise:

Many of them ["gun control" jihadists] want to see significant restrictions on the distribution of firearms in our nation, and others want to restrict types and quantities of ammunition. Some would be happy just to make sure that all guns and gun owners are registered ["just" to impose registration, and what registration leads to?], and most reasonable people certainly are not in favor of allowing criminals and mentally unstable individuals to purchase firearms.

And some even more reasonable people argue that "anyone who can't be trusted with a gun can't be trusted without a custodian." And it gets worse:

We do, however, require that anyone driving a car on the streets of our nation have a license to do so, indicating the successful completion of adequate training. We do not grant licenses to certain categories of individuals who would be deemed unsafe drivers. This is done for the safety of the public at large.

Hmm . . . perhaps Carson does have some responsibility to answer for the "license to operate" illustration. He appears to be asking us to preemptively surrender to the other side on the issue of the requirement for the licensing of a fundamental human right.

Finally, in the last paragraph, he makes clear that he actually does believe that rights are "granted" by the Constitution, rather than merely affirmed by it (emphasis added):

Perhaps instead of getting into our corners and screaming at each other, it is time to engage in intelligent conversation about our desire to preserve the rights granted to American citizens by our Constitution while at the same time ensuring the safety of all of our citizens.

If Carson does make a presidential run, and if he wants the gun rights advocate vote--and it's hard to imagine him getting far without it--he has a great deal to learn, and not much time in which to learn it.



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