U.S. Sen. Rand Paul told a packed room Wednesday in the Capital Plaza Hotel that he would oppose any effort by President Barack Obama to “usurp the Second Amendment” through executive order.
“I would fight that with every bone in my body,” Paul, R-Ky., told members of the Frankfort Rotary Club.
Obama signed 23 executive orders Wednesday in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre and other recent shootings. He also said he planned to push for legislation to ban assault weapons, limit high-capacity magazines and expand background checks.
The orders include addressing legal barriers to state background checks and clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking patients about guns in their homes.
Paul said he had not yet read the orders and would only oppose them if they were efforts to create new laws without the approval of Congress – something he said would be “abhorrent to the Constitution.”
He stressed a strict reading of the Second Amendment.
“It says you have the right to bear arms,” Paul said. “It doesn’t say you have the right to bear arms that shoot five bullets and not six bullets.”
Paul said certain gun control restrictions could be permissible, but he said limitations would increase prices, allowing the rich to buy guns to defend themselves but not the poor. He said he didn’t think armed guards were necessary at every elementary school but said he would feel safer if principals and teachers had concealed weapons.
“We’re still going to have horrible tragedies…but we have a lot of tragedies going on, and I don’t think we should give up our rights from our Second Amendment,” he said.
After his remarks and audience questions, Paul, who is joining the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The State Journal he wants someone to take responsibility for the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify before the committee next week.
“I think it was inexcusable to send our diplomats into a war zone without adequate security,” he said of the attacks that killed four Americans, including an ambassador.
“And whoever made that decision should never, ever be in a position to make that decision again, and I want to know if she’s going to accept responsibility,” he added.
TAXES AND SPENDING
Paul discussed myriad other issues, mainly focusing on reducing government spending, which he said could lead to the “destruction of the currency or even of the country.”
He said he was opposed to raising the federal debt ceiling unless the move is accompanied by a balanced budget amendment.
He spoke extensively against raising taxes on the wealthy.
Congress recently allowed taxes to increase on the nation’s top earners as part of the fiscal cliff deal.
Paul pointed out that the country’s top earners pay a large portion of the nation’s income tax.
“We have a progressive income tax,” he said, adding he believes lowering rates on the rich will boost the economy and actually raise more revenue. He called the recent calls for tax increases on the rich “the politics of envy.”
He also advocated lowering corporate income taxes and several measures to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. He expressed support for raising the full retirement age – currently 67 for people born in 1960 or later – to 70 over the next two decades.
He said that the Affordable Care Act will be “a bigger disaster than you could have ever imagined,” one that would bankrupt states and persuade more businesses to dump their employees on Medicaid.
The senator said the Obama administration has also gone “off the deep end” when it comes to coal industry regulations.
“There may not be a coal industry in four years, or what’s left will be sent to foreign countries with no pollution controls,” he said.
CRITICISM FOR HIS FELLOW REPUBLICANS
Paul, who has libertarian leanings, also discussed several distinctions between his views and those of his fellow Republicans.
He criticized Republicans for joining Democrats in requesting more money for Hurricane Sandy relief. The House of Representatives passed a more than $50 billion relief bill Tuesday night.
Paul said there is no money available for the relief, and instead of borrowing more, the U.S. should cut foreign aid to fund assistance for storm victims.
He said he opposes No Child Left Behind and supports legalizing hemp in Kentucky, saying it could be used for paper, fuel, clothing and soap. He said, despite what some opponents claim, it should be easy to distinguish between marijuana and hemp, two closely related plants.
“I’m hoping law enforcement will reassess their opposition,” he said.
The senator said he is willing to work with the president in ending the Afghanistan War, citing the fact that American soldiers are being killed by the Afghans they are training.
“We’ve lost our purpose, and we’re also out of money,” he said. He said Republicans also needed to consider military cuts.
Paul said the Republican Party is in danger of becoming a minority party, and it needs to appeal more to blacks and Hispanics. He said he supports allowing the roughly 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States to remain as long as they work and the border with Mexico is first secured.
Paul, who was elected to the Senate in 2010, said he will “seriously entertain” running for president but won’t make the decision for another two years.