Ben Carson Keeps Establishing New Lows in the Gun Responsibility Debate

I must admit to feeling kindly toward Ben Carson. Unless he’s spreading nonsense about vaccines, Carson is an amusing standout among the Republican presidential candidates. His slow speaking style has been a refreshing change of pace during the Republican presidential debates, and his weird, dumb mistakes seem kind of amusing to me. He’s always struck me as harmless enough, especially since he’s never actually going to win the Republican nomination.

"Too bad I can't say the same thing for myself."

“Too bad I can’t say the same thing for myself.”

But Carson has finally said too much. He’s no longer amusing. Last night, Carson wrote about the Oregon mass shooting on his Facebook page, and he said something unbelievably stupid:

As a Doctor, I spent many a night pulling bullets out of bodies. There is no doubt that this senseless violence is breathtaking – but I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away.

Today, Carson told USA Today that his solution for mass shootings in schools involves putting police on campuses, or arming kindergarten teachers:

“If I had a little kid in kindergarten somewhere I would feel much more comfortable if I knew on that campus there was a police officer or somebody who was trained with a weapon,” he says. Including the teacher? “If the teacher was trained in the use of that weapon and had access to it, I would be much more comfortable if they had one than if they didn’t.”

But probably the most breathtakingly dumb thing Carson has said so far is this morning’s comment to Fox & Friends on what he’d do if he were in a place where a mass shooting was happening: “Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me,” Carson, a presidential candidate who leads in several polls, said on national television. “I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all.’”

What the hell? Carson is playing into this kind of clueless American action-hero thinking, in which we imagine ourselves to be the star of our own movies. (See also: Wahlberg, Mark.) That alone is troubling enough for a presidential candidate—we can forgive actors for saying stupid, egotistical things, but we don’t want our presidents prone to building fantasy scenarios in their heads when they have their fingers on the nuclear trigger. But this is profoundly disrespectful to the victims of last week’s shooting. Carson is blaming them for getting shot, and for not standing up to the shooter.

The fact that at least one man did save lives during the shooting is beside the point; we should not expect every American to behave like Bruce Willis in Die Hard in a stressful life-or-death situation. We live in a civilization, and part of the social contract in a civilization is that we get to enjoy security in exchange for our useful contributions. If Carson (to say nothing of other Republican candidates including Jeb Bush) wants to rewrite that contract, the American people will vigorously disagree.

We do not want to have to arm our teachers to keep our children safe, in part because we know that adding more guns to the mix will result in more injuries, more deaths. We do not want a presidential candidate who believes an idealogical debate is more horrifying than the deaths of actual human beings. We do not want a man who builds an elaborate Steven Seagal fantasy as a response to a horrifying real-world problem.

Ben Carson used to be amusing. Today, he revealed himself as dangerous. If he can’t discuss guns in a responsible manner, he should not be encouraged to discuss gun responsibility in the public sphere at all.

UPDATE: And Gawker just pointed out Carson’s statement that if he was president, he would “Probably not” attend the funerals for the Oregon shooting, continuing: “I mean, I would probably have so many things on my agenda that I would go to the next one.” It’s frankly kind of surprising to me that Carson even acknowledges that we have so many mass shootings in America that there’s always bound to be a “next one.” But this is just one more dumb statement to throw on all the rest. From beloved clown to monstrous imbecile in less than 24 hours? What’s Ben Carson’s next trick, I wonder?

Paul Constant

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