Carson’s words were much more visceral than Bush’s, but they made exactly the same point. Senseless killings are devastating, but regulating guns to make them more uncommon is worse. In the nakedest political sense, this kind of unvarnished expression of the Republican Party’s gun rights calculus is more valuable than taking pot shots at Jeb Bush for a sentiment he almost certainly doesn’t hold.
Gun control has become a polarizing concept in recent years, but the notion that maintaining an armed society should entail certain basic tradeoffs has not. Comments like Bush’s and Carson’s underscore with deadly vividness the extent to which Republicans now reject all of those tradeoffs. They have thus presented gun control supporters an opportunity to evoke the implications of the right’s rigid opposition to gun regulation more graphically than they’ve chosen to until now.
After gunman Vester Flanagan murdered his former coworker Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward on live television in Roanoke, Virginia (while recording the ambush on his own handheld camera), I argued that news editors and producers shouldn’t bury the footage even out of a well-meaning sense of propriety. New York Daily News obliged, featuring three consequent still frames from the killing on its cover the next day. The paper endured a great deal of criticism at the time, but there was news value in its decision then, and, superimposed over comments like Bush’s and Carson’s, the images now help personify a radical argument: that horror like this…
…is preferable to inhibiting the manufacture or sale of the legally and easily procured weapon that caused it.