December 4 2012

NFL Tragedy Becomes Gun Control Talking Point

Hadley Heath

Perhaps you've heard that "guns don't kill people; people kill people."  This true but somewhat blasé statement about gun violence might sum up what happened over the weekend as Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher took his life after shooting and killing his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.  She was the mother of his three-month-old child, who is now an orphan.

This is obviously a tragedy. My heart goes out to this family during this difficult time. 

NBC sportscaster Bob Costas started a firestorm Sunday when he said that "if Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."

Now, Bob Costas is a trusted sports commentator who occasionally offers his personal commentary on other, more political issues.  For example, this summer he criticized the International Olympic Committee for not holding a moment of silence in memory of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian gunmen in 1972.  Hey, an athlete died, and I think Costas is totally within his rights and within his scope as a sports commentator to share his opinion about Jovan Belcher's death.

That said, I strongly disagree with his analysis.  

At Fox Sports, Jen Engel has written a pushback column, criticizing Costas and one of her colleagues, Jason Whitlock, who wrote a column along the same lines as Costas' comments.

Engel aptly noted:

The idea that if we just ban all guns Kasandra Perkins does not die and a 3-month-old baby is not orphaned is the very essence of a stated premise that fails to support its proposed conclusion. Yes, guns are dangerous and people such as Belcher sometimes use them to do awful things. What I believe in my heart is Jovan Belcher was going to find a way to wreak havoc that day whether he had a gun or a knife or only his fists. And even the potential to stop him is not justification for willingly handing over rights guaranteed to us.

It's decisions, and actions, that result in terrible consequences like these two needless deaths. The gun was the tool, but not the culprit.

This is as senseless as blaming computers for the actions of hackers.  Or blaming tanning beds for skin cancer.  Or blaming sodas for obesity.  PEOPLE break into your online bank account.  PEOPLE decide to smoke or to sunbathe, to speed or drink sodas.  PEOPLE... tragically... decide to take the property or lives of others, sometimes with the force of a gun.  We shouldn't throw a cliché at events like Belcher's death.  But we should recognize the truth, that taking away his gun - and the guns of many other law-abiding Americans - won't end the bad decisions that individuals sometimes make.  The blame lies with Belcher, not his gun.

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