Presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson continues to take heat over his remarks about the victims of the Oregon mass shooting, and his contention that had he been in that situation, he would not have “cooperated,” or “let” himself get shot, but would have instead organized an instant group attack on the shooter. In fact, it’s hard to keep track anymore, but I think Carson quintupled down on his statements during an interview with Andrea Mitchell Friday afternoon. This time, he added a few new insulting characterizations of the victims’ actions (emphasis mine):
“In a situation where you had a madman who was systematically assassinating people after asking them a question, and they’re all there waiting their turn, I would not wait my turn. I would say let’s do something, you know, attack, unless you have an easy method of escape, of course, you escape but assuming you don’t have an easy method of escape, why would you just sit there and allow him to do that? I think average people with common sense understand that.”
So, seconds after telling Andrea Mitchell that he’s not blaming the victims, Carson flat-out said they were “waiting their turn” to be shot, and “just (sat) there and allowed” themselves to be shot, and by extension, suggested that they were below average people with no common sense. Stay classy.
Carson’s comments, though, are not just offensive, they are factually wrong. First of all, Carson actually has been face-to-face with a gunman, and while the situation was quite a bit different from the Oregon mass shooting, Carson’s reaction was less than heroic, to be charitable:
Carson: “The guy comes, puts the gun in my ribs, I just said, ‘I believe that you want the guy behind the counter.’ He thought I was…”
Hunter: “In that calm way?”
Carson: “He said, oh, okay.”
Hunter: “You just redirected him to…”
Carson: “Yeah, redirected him.”
An armed robbery is vastly different from an active shooter situation, of course, but having been put to that far less stressful test, and reacting by suggesting an alternate target for the gunman, perhaps Ben Carson is less qualified than most to judge another person’s courage under fire.
Carson is also mistaken that none of the victims physically tried to stop the shooter, as heroic survivor Chris Mintz can attest, and his characterization of the other survivors’ behavior is completely without merit. He has no way of knowing what they were thinking, what they were or were not preparing to do.
According to witnesses, there were students who tried to keep him talking, which may not have saved their own lives, but which did allow police to arrive and stop the killing within six minutes of the first 911 call. It’s quite possible that there were students looking for an opportunity to attack that never came, or others who weighed the chances of success against the likelihood that a failed attack would escalate the shooting, and get even more people killed before help could arrive. The students were first seated, and then herded from a safe distance into the middle of the room, lying down, a difficult way to start a coordinated counter-assault. None of the witnesses have reported any victim suggesting the gunman target someone else.
But perhaps worst of all, Carson is now framing his remarks as a sort of active shooter PSA, so that the next group of people in a mass shooting take his advice. His advice, though, is predicated on the notion that the Oregon shooter could not have shot everyone if they’d all decided to attack him. This displays a stunning ignorance of the capabilities of semiautomatic weapons, and particularly, the six weapons the Oregon shooter had with him.
The best way to disabuse Carson of this idea is with a simple demonstration, so let’s grant him his fantasy. Ben Carson is either sitting at his desk or lying on the floor in the center of the classroom, and he decides it’s time to rally the class to physically attack the flak-jacketed, six-weapon-wielding shooter. Using actual demonstrations of the specific weapons the shooter was carrying, here’s how that would go:
As you can see, our shooter got off eleven shots, all direct hits, just in the time it took Carson to say “‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can’t get us all,” which would presumably be followed by some lag time for people to get up off the floor, make their way through the eleven dead people who had just been shot, and the other dead people who were also being shot down as they rushed the shooter. In the time it takes Ben Carson to tell Andrea Mitchell how badly he was taken out of context, several classrooms worth of people would be dead, and if one did get through, he’d be fighting a guy in a flak jacket with six guns.
Obviously, there’s nothing that will shut Ben Carson up, but if he’s going to keep telling people this garbage, then the people deserve to know just what it is he’s saying, and just what the guns that aren’t the problem can do.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org