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Opening Arguments

It's all about location

I think I've said here once or twice (and on the editorial page as well) that you learn how strong your commitment to federalism is when it's applied to an issue you feel passionately about. Are you willing to let states decide on abortion even though you think it's a murder no matter where it's committeed? Are you comfortable with local choice for gay marriage even though you believe it should be the law of the land everywhere?

Now comes a conservative, Dr. Benjamin Carson, who strays from orthodoxy and says, hey, it should apply to gun rights, too:

Appearing on Glenn Beck‘s radio show this past week, Dr. Benjamin Carson took a vastly different stance from most conservatives on the issue of gun control, claiming you shouldn’t be able to own semi-automatic weapons in large cities.

[. . .]

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.”

This approach should be attractive to Democrats as well:

Citations omitted. I’m a bit surprised that Democrats haven’t made more of urban/rural logic on guns, punctuated by the federalist approach that Carson endorses here. Obama and Biden pay lip service to it, periodically reassuring rural gun owners that no one wants to take away their hunting rifle or shotgun, but that argument’s hard to swallow when they’re pushing blanket bans on certain weapons nationwide from the seat of power in D.C. The smarter approach would be for O to declare that he doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution on guns and then call on Democrats to agitate for bans at the city and state level. That would kill some of the conservative pushback to gun control — most red-staters would have little to fear — while letting city dwellers live out their fondest confiscatory fantasies.