Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has stepped up his defence of gun rights following a massacre at an Oregon college last week. The Grand Old Party (GOP) leadership contender caused outrage by insinuating that the victims did not do enough to save themselves.
Nine people were killed and a further nine were injured after a gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College. Chris Harper-Mercer asked Christians to identify themselves before opening fire on them.
In an appearance on Fox News on 6 October, Carson was asked to place himself in the position of a person instructed to declare their faith. "I'm glad you asked that question," the retired neurosurgeon replied. "Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can't get us all.'" Carson's comment was followed by a smile and chuckle.
Carson's comments caused disbelief and outrage and when requested to provide clarification in a separate instance, he said that he would "ask everybody to attack the gunman, because he can only shoot one of us at a time. That way we don't all end up dead".
Appearing on Fox News after he made the comments and subsequent clarification, Carson said the chuckle was directed "at the silly reporters, at not being able to understand such a simple concept" that doing nothing in the face of impending systematic murder is incomprehensible. In a separate interview, Carson said that he was looking at the "big picture" when challenged if he was judging the victims.
"Not judging them at all. But, you know, these incidents continue to occur. I doubt that this will be the last one. I want to plant the seed in people's minds so that if this happens again, you know, they don't all get killed," he said.
Following the 142nd school shooting in the US since January 2013, Carson participated in a Facebook Q&A session on 5 October, and said that as a doctor, he had removed numerous bullets from bodies, but the right to bear arms was paramount. "I never saw a body with bullet holes that was more devastating than taking the right to arm ourselves away," he said.
Carson added that gun-control laws would not would not stymie the shootings and accused Democrats of using "these tragedies to advance a political agenda." He said: "The Left would have you believe that a man that asked Christians to stand up (and then executed them) would obey 'new gun laws'. That kind of logic explains many of the problems we find ourselves in today."
The Republican candidate has also called for kindergarten teachers to be armed and said that a ban on assault weapons would not prevent mass shootings.