07 October 2015

In defense of Dr. Carson

Dr. Ben Carson is wrong on guns like almost all Republicans, but the front-runner (depending on what poll you read) for his party's presidential nomination is getting a bum rap this week for offering advice on what to do during mass shootings like last week's amoklauf in Oregon. A lot of outrage has been worked up over his suggestion that the people under attack gang up, armed or not, and attack the attacker. Carson's comments are being condemned as insensitive to the people in Oregon who did not defend themselves, and as preposterous in a practical sense. On the last point, at least, readers of this blog know better. On numerous occasions, most notably during the amoklauf/attempted assassination in Tucson, shooters have been stopped by people without firearms counterattacking individually or in groups. The bad guys have to reload, after all. Such cases are cited regularly to refute the NRA argument that the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. As for the objection to Dr. Carson's alleged insensitivity, it doesn't follow that he was criticizing, much less insulting the Oregon victims and survivors for not defending themselves. To assume that he was is as petty as the argument that Carson has no right to counsel courage until he's been under fire himself. That argument seems to be offered by people who assume that the doctor would freeze and cower under fire like most people, presumably including the people making this speculative ad hominem argument. It may be true that most of us would freeze and cower, but shouldn't we want to do otherwise, especially when we know it can be done? If no one can say we should be brave because he may be a coward, does that mean we should all be cowards? Trick question! If Dr. Carson is to be faulted this week, it should be for the complacency with which he recommends death-defying heroism as an inevitable necessity. He's almost certainly right to say of the Oregon amoklauf that "this is probably not going to be the last time that happens," especially since his party and his fans would rather such things happen than give up their private arsenals, but the sort of heroes we need now will stop such things from happening, even if that also means confronting violent people, rather than simply tell us what to do when it happens again. But until those heroes appear, we could probably use the sort of heroes Carson is looking for, even if he's no hero himself.

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