US Republican presidential candidates (L to R) US Representative Ron Paul, former US Senator Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich stand for the national anthem before the start of the Republican presidential debate in Mesa, Arizona, February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Laura Segall

My expectations were low, but still it seemed odd: During the three-hour GOP debate last night in Mesa, Arizona—117 miles from Tucson, where a year ago Jared Lee Loughner shot six people dead and injured thirteen, including Representative Gabby Giffords—no one raised the issue of gun control. Not that I thought the candidates would touch the subject (even if a day earlier Newt had bully-boyed Chevy’s most energy-efficient car by saying, “You can’t put a gun rack in a Volt.” Watch this dude prove him wrong). After all, NRA-fearing politicians from Obama on down have been as silent on gun control post-Tucson as they were effusive over Giffords’s brief appearance in Congress last month, when she announced her resignation.

Nor did I expect anyone in the auditorium audience to risk life or limb by squeaking out a query on gun violence, banning high-capacity ammunition clips, or doing background checks on customers at gun shows. But I did hold out a sliver of hope that CNN would let either someone over the Net or moderator John King himself venture there. Apparently, though, King’s last run-in at a debate with Gingrich—who blasted him as piece of liberal-media detritus—left him gun shy.

But wait—I stand corrected: one reference to gun control did penetrate CNN’s bulletproof process, and it came from Ron Paul. Rick Santorum was explaining why he believes that “contraception is dangerous.” It leads to, he said, “the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America.”

Paul, an Ob-Gyn, could have countered with the obvious, that contraception could help lower the number of children born out of wedlock, but instead the doc said:

I think it’s sort of like the argument—conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don’t kill, criminals kill. So, in a way, it’s the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.

So, the closest the fearsome foursome got to even obliquely talking gun control in gun-happy Arizona was to liken it to birth control. If the Medieval crowd goes any further down this road, their new verity could become: “Birth control pills don’t kill people, having sex kills people.”