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Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part II - Second Amendment

Ben CarsonThis entry is part of a series looking at Ben Carson's stance on political issues. For this series, I'm mostly looking at the issues identified on Carson's own website in the section, Ben on the Issues. I figured that was a good way to pick the issues he himself found most important to discuss, without anyone being able to accuse me of cherry-picking Carson's worst stances. An index of all the issues can be found on the first post in the series, Ben Carson - On the Issues, Part I.

This entry addresses Carson's stance on the Second Amendment. Here's part of what he wrote on his website.

The right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms is fundamental to our liberty.

It was no accident that our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to own firearms as the 2nd element of the Bill of Rights, immediately after establishing our free speech rights. I cannot and will not support any efforts to weaken The 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment is a central pillar of our Constitution. Our Founding Fathers added it explicitly in order to protect freedom in the United States of America. It provides our citizens the right to protect themselves from threats foreign or domestic.

I don't agree with Carson's interpretation of the Second Amendment or the Founders' intentions behind it. There's an article I've quoted before, written by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment, where he explains how for most of the history of the country, the amendment was interpreted differently than the individual right it has recently become. Here's a good excerpt explaining this.

For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a "well regulated Militia."

Stevens went on to suggest that the 2nd Amendment should be amended to read, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed." This would clarify what seemed to be the Founders' original intent.

I recognize that once the Supreme Court reinterpreted the Second Amendment to be an individual right in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago (damn activist judges </sarcasm>), that makes it the law of the land. And I do believe that guns serve useful purposes and should remain legal*. But I would like to see far more regulation over guns than currently exists. Personally, I think everyone that wants a gun should be required to earn a license, similar to the existing requirements for concealed carry permits, including a background check at the time the license is issued, with an agency monitoring criminal records to make sure that the license remains valid. If people can be required to have photo IDs to vote, the most fundamental right in a representative democracy, a permit for a gun doesn't seem like a big deal. These are useful, but deadly instruments, and a little mandatory training shouldn't be too much to ask.

I've actually written a bit more on gun control that I'm not going to repeat here, but that can be found in the following entries, which among other topics cover how effective guns are for people to "protect themselves from threats foreign or domestic" (short answer: not very effective):


On to Part III - Balanced Budget Amendment


Image Source for Ben Carson: Christian Post, Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst


*Obviously, there's no danger of guns becoming completely illegal anytime soon. It would take a Constitutional Amendment, and one affecting the Bill of Rights, no less, which is unrealistic. Even Barack Obama, who's a proponent of stricter gun control, signed into law a bill allowing loaded guns to be taken into national parks (more info: NBC News).

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