Via CNS, the question mark’s in the headline because I can’t tell if he’s actually changed his mind on gun policy or if he’s just choosing his words carefully in restating his prior position. Carson has two big vulnerabilities as a presidential candidate. One, which he’s stuck with, is his lack of political experience. Pundits like to navel-gaze about how that might be an asset to him, positioning him as the fresh-faced outsider untainted by Washington crapulence, but have a look at where “never held office” falls on this chart of potential candidate traits. The only trait viewed more negatively is, er, atheism. The other vulnerability is one he can do something about — namely, he told Glenn Beck last year that your right to own a semiautomatic should depend on whether you live in an urban or rural area, a remark that hasn’t gone unnoticed among gun-rights advocates. If he’s going to run as a Republican (which would be silly given his chance to fill the Perot niche against Clinton and Bush as a third-party protest candidate), he needs to get right on guns. Is this good enough?

“I do believe that it is necessary for people to begin to have rational discussions about things – what kinds of weapons,” said Carson. “You know, I don’t think tanks, for instance, would be a very good thing to be keeping in your garage. But you certainly should have access to any kind of weapon that you want for recreational purposes or to protect yourself. There really shouldn’t be a lot of restrictions on that.”

He continued, “You do need to have a discussion about how we deal with situations where there is a tremendous amount of crime and easy access to the kinds of weapons that can create a lot of damage quickly. But that needs to be done in context of always preserving Second Amendment rights.”

Listen to the clip for his full answer. The last bit sounds like he does still see an urban/rural distinction, but the part about always preserving gun rights is hard to square with what he told Beck. Maybe he’s come around on semiautomatic pistols in cities but would restrict rifles to less populated areas? Or he’s okay with revolvers in cities but not semiautomatics? He might as well be specific the next time he’s asked about this. It’s going to come up if he runs, early and often.

Interestingly, he’s written not one but two columns for National Review in the past eight days urging conservatives not to conduct purity purges against perceived RINOs but to join hands with them in protecting the stuff that really matters, like fiscal sustainability and Christian values. Hmmmm.