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Kansas Senator and presidential candidate, Sam Brownback, on the Court’s abortion ruling today, and gun policy.

Thursday, April 19, 2007
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HH: Broadcasting today from the Torrance-Del Amo Fashion Center, where I’m signing copies of my new book, A Mormon In The White House? One man who does not want that question mark to be yes but no is Senator Sam Brownback of the great state of Kansas, himself a candidate for president. And today, we are very happy, Senator, that the United States Supreme Court has upheld a law I know you worked very hard on to ban partial birth abortion. How important the decision today, Senator?

SB: Well, there are lives at stake, and there are lives that were saved today by this Supreme Court decision, and not just those involved in potential partial birth abortion actions, but I think it also signals to the rest of the country a move towards life, and to seeing that life is the central issue in this society, not a Constitutional right to an abortion. I think it’s a big day.

HH: Now of course, we’ve already gone over the opinion with a couple of Con law scholars, and it’s clear that we don’t have the votes there to overturn Roe V. Wade, but that it’s a Kennedy Court here. Do you think that that invites states to do other post-viability restrictions under the Casey decision as Justice Kennedy understands it?

SB: It certainly looks like it to me, that it invites that. And I think it also invites things like what South Carolina is looking at, about requiring an ultrasound before an abortion is provided, and that picture of the ultrasound given to the mother. I think it invites things like limitations…limitations aren’t the right time, putting forward that if you’re going to have an abortion after 20 weeks of age, that anesthesia has to be offered to the mother for the child during the abortion. I think it really opens up the avenue up for a number of these other areas.

HH: Senator Brownback, how important is the life issue in the GOP caucuses and primaries which get underway in ten months in which you’re participating?

SB: I think it’s central. It may be something you don’t hear as much about, but it’s in the base of the party, and people want to know where you stand on this issue, and a lot of people will determine their view of a candidate based on this issue. It’s kind of like it’s a bellwether for them determining whether or not this is a candidate they can support at all, or not.

HH: I had Mayor Giuliani on, on Friday, and asked him would it be a good day when Roe V. Wade was overturned or a bad day, and he said he’ll leave it for the court to decide. Will that work with Republican voters?

SB: Well, I think it will be a fabulous day for life when that happens, and it’s going to happen. But I don’t know that that sort of answer’s anything that’s going to really resonate with GOP primary voters, or with the majority of the American public, who is actually pro-life, and they’re opposed to abortion, other than in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.

HH: Now Senator Brownback, a lot of media types are saying the pro-lifers ought to be also pro-gun control, especially after a catastrophe like Monday’s. What’s your response to them?

SB: Well, my response to that is that there is a 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, and it’s right there next to the 1st Amendment. The 1st Amendment protects speech, and the 2nd Amendment protects the right to bear arms, and, and you have to look at the individual. There have been guns in this country from the beginning, from before the beginning of the republic. It’s the individual pulling the trigger that we’ve got to focus on, not the fact of guns in the country.

HH: Now Senator, we discovered today that he had a court order declaring him to be a menace at one point. Should…do we need new gun laws that would restrict the sale of handguns to people with such orders against them?

SB: Well, I’m going to leave that one to be looked at over a period of time, and in individual states, and we’ll look at it, I’m sure, up here as well. There currently are some restrictions on waiting periods, and different restrictions like that, that the courts have upheld, and it’s ones you can look at. I just don’t think that our immediate focus on the gun is the issue here. The issue is the person that pulled the trigger.

HH: Of course, though, lots of people on the left, especially, are arguing we don’t have enough resources to particularize the scrutiny of people. We need to build a barrier against very disturbed people getting guns, and they want some laws. What are you going to argue against that?

SB: I’d argue that there’s a Constitution. I mean, I think there are things that we ought to, when I hear people talking about, for violence or hatred in this society, that there ought to be limitations. But there’s a 1st Amendment that protects a person’s free speech. I just think we have to be realistic and instead of a knee jerk reaction, saying okay, let’s limit guns, I think really what we ought to do is take a very in depth view of what is the situation, and what has happened here, and what can we do within the Constitution, to try to see that this doesn’t happen in the future.

HH: Senator Brownback, Mike Huckabee was on the program, one of the guys you’re competing with in Iowa for the pro-life movement activists, along with Governor Romney and a couple of other conservatives like Duncan Hunter, and he’s comfortable with his neighbor owning machine guns. He said so. Are you?

SB: I would have some questions about that, and I think the courts have seen fit to have limitations done on a state basis, or other basis, on some of those types of areas, or those types of weapons. But I votes 100% with the National Rifle Association, for as far as when issues have come up here. I think this is a Constitutional right that people have, and I’ve supported the right to bear arms. I grew up hunting and fishing on a farm, I make sure to add the basis on that. I think what we’ve got to focus on is the individual pulling the trigger.

HH: And so, higher caliber weapons and machine guns, those are not in Sam Brownback’s understanding of what the 2nd Amendment protects?

SB: Well, no, don’t…I’m not going to say that, because you get some of these, and they had this…when I first came into the Congress, they had the assault weapons ban that was coming up, and you first hear about it, and you say well of course, I’m opposed to assault weapons. But it turned out these were minor modifications to guns that a lot of people had. So it wasn’t really about assault weapons. It was about those modifications, and I didn’t think we should limit that. So I’m not going to go with your point blank definition here. I believe in the right to bear arms, I think the Court has held, and I’ve seen the Court has held that there are some limitations that they will allow.

HH: Okay, but machine guns, which Huckabee was talking about, and I think we all have the same idea of what those are, do you think those are covered by the 2nd Amendment?

SB: You have a right to bear arms. I’m not willing to say by that definition, because I’ve been down this road on a policy discussion before, so unless it’s specifically put out, I’m not willing to say.

HH: Senator Brownback, always a pleasure. Thank you, Senator, look forward to having you back on, great day for American on the Court.

End of interview.

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