Republican presidential frontrunner Ben Carson has never held elected office, so his policy stances can be hard to pin down. His positions on guns are but one example. The simplest metric for evaluating a candidate’s views on the issue — a letter “grade” from the National Rifle Association — doesn’t apply to Carson, since he doesn’t have a legislative history by which the NRA (or voters) can judge him. Carson’s platform statements don’t offer much guidance, either. Check out his campaign website and you’ll find fairly boilerplate pro-gun lingo, such as “I cannot and will not support any efforts to weaken The 2nd Amendment.”
Without a lawmaking resume to go on, Carson’s speeches and interviews become the best guide to his views on gun rights and gun policy. As the following sample shows, some of those views can be extreme, while others veer from the party orthodoxy.
He has said that limiting gun ownership is more tragic than bullet-riddled bodies.
In a Facebook post last month, Carson responded to voters’ questions following the shooting at an Oregon college.
Q: The first question tonight comes from Dan. He wants to know if the tragedy has altered my position as a supporter of the Second Amendment.
A: Dan, I grew up in the slums of Detroit. I saw plenty of gun violence as a child. Both of my cousins were killed on the streets. As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies. There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking – but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away. Serious people seek serious solutions. The Left would prefer to use these tragedies to advance a political agenda.
Carson earlier told a similar story at the NRA’s annual meeting in April.
“I remember seeing people lying on the ground with bullet holes waiting to die. I remember both of my older cousins who we lived with were killed. And I remember the drug dealers, many of whom we liked, because they brought us candy. I remember the days that they would be killed. It was a lot of carnage that I saw. And then as a surgeon, I spent many a night operating on people with gunshot wounds to their heads. And all of that is horrible. But I can tell you something. It is not nearly as horrible as having a population that is defenseless against a group of tyrants who have arms.”
He’s open to funding federal gun violence research.
In the 1990s, an amendment tacked on to a spending bill by a pro-NRA congressman effectively banned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on the public health effects of gun violence. A vote by the Republican Congress shortly following the Charleston church shooting in June was the latest to uphold the prohibition; afterwards, then-Speaker John Boehner said, “I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease.”
When asked about the ban last month, Carson strayed from the party line. “More information is better,” he said at an event in Arkansas. “Whatever it is. Put the information on the table and let’s make decisions based on real evidence.”
He blames the Holocaust on gun control.
In an October interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN after the Umpqua Community College shooting, Carson defended earlier comments he made suggesting that Jews would have been able to prevent the Holocaust if they had carried guns.
Q: … Clarify — if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would six million Jews have been slaughtered?
A: I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed.
He’s thinks semi-automatic firearms have no place in big cities.
On Glenn Beck’s show in 2013, he said not everyone has a right to own these weapons.
Q: Do I have a right to own a semi-automatic weapon?
A: It depends on where you live, I think. 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. If you live out in the country somewhere by yourself, I have no problem
Q: Is that the federal government or the local government that can decide that?
A: I think it’s probably [the] local.
He would respond to an active shooter by attacking the gunman.
In a recent interview on “Fox & Friends,” Carson was discussing his faith when one of the hosts raised a hypothetical, based on what the Oregon shooter allegedly said to some of his victims.
Q: Dr. Carson, if a gunman walks up and puts the gun at you, and says what religion are you? That is the ultimate test of your faith.
A: I’m glad you asked that question, because not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can’t get us all.’
[Photo: Flickr user Gage Skidmore]