The Daily Show's Trevor Noah is pissed off at Ben Carson for blaming the victims of the Oregon shooting.
On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate described on Fox News how he would handle a mass shooting: "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 has doubled down on the comments since then, telling Fox News's Megyn Kelly, "If you sit there and let him shoot you one by one, you're all going to be dead."
Noah was quick to point out that this sounds a lot like victim blaming. "Let him shoot you? What do you mean, let him shoot you? What do you really expect the victims to do?" He added, "This guy would make the worst hostage negotiator ever. 'All right, sir, I need you to stay calm and put your gun down. Everyone else, rush him! Rush him now! How many people are dead? Well, at least it wasn't everyone.'"
Not only are Carson's comments offensive, but they misunderstand basic psychology. As Franci Crepeau-Hobson, a University of Colorado Denver psychology professor, told the New Republic, blaming the victim in these situations misunderstands how people's brains work in times of crises. "When you are in a life or death situation, sometimes your autonomic nervous system takes over and you may not behave the way you thought you would," she said. "There are some factors that might make someone more likely to freeze versus run versus perhaps fight back, but it's not a real straightforward generalization that you can make."
That's why these imaginary heroic scenarios play out better in the movies, and when Carson's advice happens in real life, people tend to get hurt — exactly what happened in the Oregon shooting.
There are better ways to deal with mass shootings
As the New York Times's Alan Rappeport reported, "The heavily armed Oregon gunman killed nine people before taking his own life. The fact that an Army veteran who did try to stop him was shot multiple times and remains hospitalized underscores the risks of attacking an armed attacker, as numerous critics pointed out Tuesday."
This highlights another problem with Carson's comments: It took someone who has been trained for combat scenarios to try to act. Most other people are — justifiably — paralyzed by fear in these situations, and they don't have the training to overcome that fear. So expecting a large group of people to charge at the shooter is simply unrealistic, on top of coming off as victim blaming.
So instead of suggesting that people attack shooters, a safer way to end gun violence may be preventing it from happening in the first place.
One way to do that is gun control: The US has more gun deaths than other developed nations because, according to the research, Americans have more guns, and more guns mean more gun deaths. So reducing the number of guns — by limiting access to them, or by immediately cutting the supply of them through, for example, buyback programs— would very likely lead to fewer gun deaths.
But Carson is against gun control, writing on Monday, "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."
Perhaps that explains Carson's comments: If he's unwilling to look at real solutions, fantasies are all he has left.