When Republicans Believed in Gun Control - Rolling Stone
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When Republicans Believed in Gun Control

Modest gun control hasn’t always been antithetical to the Republican Party

The Republican candidates for president are running as Second Amendment fundamentalists.

Donald Trump broke new ground on the presidential stage calling for a national concealed-carry law – making a permit issued in Wyoming valid in New York City. “If we can do that for driving – which is a privilege, not a right – then surely we can do that for concealed carry, which is a right, not a privilege,” Trump wrote in his campaign platform.

In the wake of the massacre at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Ben Carson wrote on Facebook that the slaughter of innocents was no reason to second-guess unfettered access to arms: “I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” Carson later doubled down on his extremism, proceeding to blame the Holocaust on a lack of armed Jews.

But modest gun control has not always been antithetical to the Republican Party – and certainly not to either Trump or Carson. In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump backed an assault weapons ban and a 72-hour waiting period to buy a gun. As recently as 2013, Carson called for restrictions on urban ownership of AR-15 rifles.

In fact, Republican presidents from Richard Nixon – who wanted a federal ban on handguns – to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush all voiced support for gun control. George H.W. Bush was so furious at the National Rifle Association’s extremism that he renounced his lifetime membership during his term in the White House. 

More remarkable, even the NRA once voiced support for “reasonable” gun control, including mandatory background checks at gun shows and prohibiting guns at schools, like we do at airports. “No guns in America’s schools, period,” insisted NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre in the aftermath of the Columbine school massacre.

The GOP and LaPierre may have flushed this common sense down the memory hole. But Rolling Stone has put together a video to remind us that zero tolerance for gun regulation is a new development in mainstream American politics.


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