ATLANTA — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested Tuesday that U.S. citizens should train for terrorist attacks just as schoolchildren once conducted air-raid drills during the Cold War.
"What we need to be thinking about in the future is how to train our people to be able to react appropriately when you get into a situation with extremists in order to save your life," Carson told about 2,000 supporters at an Atlanta rally.
Carson recalled his school days during the era of nuclear tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union. "The siren would go, all the kids would get under the desks or go to their designated spot," Carson said. "And fortunately we never had to make use of that knowledge. But it was pervasive throughout the country. Everybody knew about that. We need to start teaching people what to do once again in those situations."
He went on to celebrate U.S. citizens who carry weapons, telling the crowded theater "that if a bunch of terrorists came in here and there were people in here with guns, it would be very unlikely that they would be able to carry about the kind of massacre they did in Paris."
Carson's remarks come as the Republican presidential field searches for political balance amid increasing concern over national security.
The GOP hopefuls continue to blast President Barack Obama's response to extremist threats as insufficient. But they also must navigate their own front-runner, Donald Trump, and his call Monday for a "the total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."
Carson on Tuesday seemingly contradicted a policy declaration he had issued the day before.
Responding to Trump on Monday, Carson said, "Everyone visiting our country should register and be monitored during their stay." But on Tuesday, Carson agreed with CNN host Jake Tapper when questioned about the practicality of monitoring foreign visitors.
"We can't do that," Carson said. "That would be ridiculous."
Carson stood by his call for visitor registration, but emphasized that he would impose no religious test.
The Carson campaign did not respond to a request for comment on his policy shift, and he did not mention it — or Trump's remarks — on stage Tuesday evening.
He did argue that conservatives are right to express concern about who is entering the country. Carson has said since the Paris attacks that the State Department should stop processing applications from Syrians seeking to resettle in the U.S. from their war-torn homeland.
"That doesn't mean we're cold-hearted and cruel," Carson said, adding that the U.S. should help resettle Syrian refugees in Middle Eastern countries like Jordan.