The Lesser of Ben Carson’s Two Gun Policy Evils

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So this morning I expressed not just concern but some actual fear over Dr. Ben Carson’s recently announced conviction that the Second Amendment was necessary to prevent “tyranny,” mostly because Dr. Carson’s definition of “tyranny” seems to include the kind of things readers of this blog support routinely.

As it happens, over at the Plum Line Paul Waldman takes a closer look at a second Carson point-of-view on guns: the idea that he or anyone else on the scene of a gun massacre might well stop or prevent it if armed heavily enough.

Was it unspeakably insulting to the victims of the Oregon shooting and their families to suggest that they were killed or injured because they didn’t have the physical courage and quick thinking that a hero like Carson would have displayed had he been in their shoes? Of course. And is it an absurd fantasy that in the instant he was confronted by a gunman, Carson would in the space of seconds organize a bunch of terrified strangers to mount an assault on someone ready to kill them? You bet it is.

But this fantasy is nothing unusual at all. In fact, it lies at the heart of much of the efforts Republicans have made at the behest of the National Rifle Association in recent years to change state laws on guns. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” says the NRA, and Republicans believe it, too. So they push for laws to allow guns to be brought into as many places as possible — schools, government buildings, churches, anywhere and everywhere. They advocate “stand your ground” laws that encourage people to use guns to settle arguments. They seek both open-carry and concealed-carry laws on a “shall issue” basis (meaning the government presumes that you should get the license unless it can prove you fall into certain categories of offenders) to put guns in as many hands as possible.

All of this is driven by the fantasy of the gun owner as action hero.

Carson’s argument that the way to stop gun violence is by more guns is, as Waldman notes, pretty much the default position of Republicans these days. That’s true whether or not they also, like Carson, go on to embrace the additional argument that guns are needed to remind liberals there’s only so much Big Government that good patriotic Americans should be expected to accept no matter what voters or judges say.

Put the two arguments together and you see the hopelessness of any “compromise” over gun regulation. You also see how many people look at Ben Carson’s stirring biography and observe his mild-mannered habits of speech and really don’t listen to what the man is saying. In many respects he’s a lot scarier than Trump or Cruz or any of the rest of the GOP presidential field.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.