WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential contender Ben Carson says he would have sacrificed his life to help stop last week's deadly attack in Oregon. But he's joined the rest of the GOP's 2016 class in refusing to support new measures to stop mass shootings.
In a new book, the retired neurosurgeon also insists that Americans must have access to assault rifles and "armor-penetrating ammunition" to defend themselves from "an overly aggressive government."
The comments provide fresh evidence of the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats on gun violence and the potential for the issue to loom large in the 2016 presidential contest.
Leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton rolled out several proposals to address gun violence this week, including using executive action as president to expand background check requirements. Clinton pledged to require anyone "attempting to sell a significant number of guns" to be considered a firearms dealer, and therefore subject to a federal license.
Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to politicize last week's shooting rampage at Umpqua Community College, which left 10 dead, including the shooter. Carson on Tuesday said he probably would not have visited the Oregon community if he were president, because that would inject politics into a tragedy.
But speaking on Fox News' "Fox and Friends," he said he would have taken action to stop the shooter if he had been at the scene.
See photos of Carson on the campaign trail:
Ben Carson on the campaign trail
Ben Carson: Would have sacrificed life to stop Oregon attack
MT. AYR, IA - JANUARY 22 : Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is introduced during his 'Trust in God Townhall' campaign stop January 22, 2016 in Mt. Ayr, Iowa. Carson, who is seeking the nomination from the Republican Party is on the presidential campaign trail across Iowa ahead of the Iowa Caucus taking place February 1. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a Liberty University Convocation in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. As retired neurosurgeon Carson has risen in the polls, media reports have revisited his accounts of acts of violence as a child, a key part of the redemption story he discusses on the campaign trail. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to the media before speaking at a gala for the Black Republican Caucus of South Florida at PGA National Resort on November 6, 2015 in Palm Beach, Florida. Carson has come under media scrutiny for possibly exaggerating his background and other statements he has made recently. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 16: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson (L) eats a piece of pizza while touring the Iowa State Fair on August 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage and touring the fairgrounds. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - OCTOBER 29: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks during a news conference before a campaign event at Colorado Christian University on October 29, 2015 in Lakewood, Colorado. Ben Carson was back on the campaign trail a day after the third republican debate held at the University of Colorado Boulder. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Scenes around the the Value Voters Summit on September 25, 2015 in Washington DC. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson takes the stage at the event. Dr Carson speaks to the media after the speach. (Photos by Charles Ommanney/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Attendees wait for Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, not pictured, to arrive during a campaign stop at the birthplace of the Michigan Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Carson, the third candidate in the Republican race to have never held elected office, saw his numbers drop following the debate last week. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens as he attends a service at Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. Carson will be speaking at the Iowa State Fair, which is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 06: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson participates in the first prime-time presidential debate hosted by FOX News and Facebook at the Quicken Loans Arena August 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. The top-ten GOP candidates were selected to participate in the debate based on their rank in an average of the five most recent national political polls. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Ben Carson, 2016 Republican presidential candidate, eats a slice of pizza as he tours the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. In a Sunday interview with Fox News, Carson doubled down on his assertion that a speech given by President Barack Obama intended to sell the American public on his nuclear deal with Iran contained 'coded innuendos employing standard anti-Semitic themes.' Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
"I would not just stand there and let him shoot me," Carson said. "I would say 'Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me but he can't get us all."
In his book released Tuesday, Carson, who was raised in inner-city Detroit, says he previously supported stricter gun laws "until he fully recognized the intent of the Second Amendment, which is to protect the freedom of the people from an overly aggressive government."
He writes in "A More Perfect Union" that calls for greater gun control after repeated mass shootings, especially those involving children, may seem noble, "but is just the kind of thing that our founders feared." And he defended the right to own powerful weaponry such as assault rifles and armor-penetrating ammunition.
Carson wrote that the "people have a right to any type of weapon that they can legally obtain in order to protect themselves. They would be at a great disadvantage if they were attacked by an overly aggressive government and all they had to defend themselves with were minor firearms."
None of the Republican candidates is publicly supporting expanded background checks, despite polls that suggest overwhelming majorities of voters in both parties would back such a change. The National Rifle Association, a powerful lobby on Capitol Hill and around the country, opposes an expansion of background checks or any new gun-control measures.
Carson and some of his Republican rivals have called for measures that would prevent people who are seriously mentally ill from owning guns, but few have offered specific plans.
"They've made the gamble that they don't think they need to offer much by way of substantive proposals," said Pia Carusone, executive director for Americans For Responsible Solutions, a group led by former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, a victim of gun violence herself.
"We're a country clearly suffering from crisis of gun violence," Carusone said. "But we're seeing an acceptance of the status quo."