Amherst, New Hampshire (CNN) - On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul weighed in on a controversy catching the attention of many Americans: the federal safety board's call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use and texting while driving.
Citing the dangers of distracted driving, the National Transportation Safety Board urged states Tuesday to outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting for all drivers. It would apply to hand-held as well as hands-free devices, but devices installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer would be allowed, the NTSB said.
Paul reacted to the non-binding recommendation after being asked about it by a voter at a morning campaign stop at Joey's Diner in Amherst, New Hampshire. Paul visited the diner as part of a two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.
"I was thinking about that because it was in the news today. So I went to the Constitution and I looked at Article 1, Section 8. There is nothing in there about telephones," Paul said, prompting laughter and applause from the crowd. "Then I thought, 'Well there is nothing in there about what you can do and can't do when you are driving in a horse and buggy either."
Paul noted the proposed exception for manufacturer installed equipment: "And then they're going to do it by regulation. They're going to say the phone is okay if its built with the cars. Well maybe the car industries might like this. That means they can, you know, charge you more for the automobile."
The Texas congressman, a self-proclaimed "constitutional conservative," staunchly promotes libertarian views. Among them: a dramatic scaling back of the role of federal government in the lives of Americans. True to that form, Paul said the NTSB proposal was another example of government overreach.
"The federal government shouldn't be involved," Paul told the crowd.
The congressman acknowledged that talking and texting while driving is potentially dangerous. And he added that eating or "disciplining kids" could also cause driver distractions. Yet Paul asked: who should be responsible for preventing it?
"For the federal government – that means they have to enforce these laws. Does that mean we're going to have more federal policemen checking up on who is going to answer the phone?" Paul asked.
And as he frequently does, the congressman repeated an unyielding line used by those who support Libertarianism: in a push for more individual liberty, Americans should be responsible for themselves – even if it means endangering themselves.
"It's taking away the responsibility from you as the individual, that if you mess up and you do something wrong in a car you should be held responsible," Paul said. "If somebody comes along and it is determined that you have to really have a regulation, under our system of government, it has to be done at the local level."
"The basic principle of being responsible for all your actions would handle all these kinds of circumstances."
Paul has frequently pressed that sentiment.
At one point during the CNN Tea Party debate in September, moderator and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asked Paul what should happen to an employed young man who chose not to buy health insurance and then suffered a terrible accident.
"Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?" Blitzer asked Paul.
Part of Paul's response: "What he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself," adding, "That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks."
"But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" Blitzer pressed.
Paul responded, "No." But some audience members cheered that idea.