Why can't we talk about guns?

McClatchy-TribuneDecember 6, 2012 

It was bound to happen.

The gun-control debate has infiltrated the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide case. It was spearheaded by FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock and ratcheted up when NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas brought the gun-control issue to game time. During halftime of the Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game Sunday night, Costas quoted from Whitlock's column, then espoused his own views.

"In the coming days," Costas said, "Jovan Belcher's actions and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows? But here, wrote Jason Whitlock, is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."

Was it the right time and place? Yes. NBC had the NFL audience at prime time. What better way for Costas to bring the issues of gun control, domestic violence and suicide prevention to the forefront.

Critics say he should have waited for a better time to voice his beliefs. There was no better time; his timing was indeed perfect. We've been waiting for generations to wrap this dangling issue of guns into a nice, neat little package with a bow on top. But there's nothing neat about this. The love of guns is America's incurable disease that won't go away. Remember, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney touched gun control/assault-weapons bans during their campaigns because of the lightning-rod effect.

Costas, as expected, was battered through social media. The usual cliches surfaced: Some spouted the old reliable "guns don't kill people, people kill people" mantra; others said "keep the liberals from injecting gun control into the NFL." Even former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain went off on Twitter, blurting: "You tune in for a football game and end up listening to Bob Costas spewing sanctimonious dreck." On the opposite side, entertainer Rosie O'Donnell directed effusive praise Costas' way.

Regardless, let's face one fact. Having a gun in the home makes it so much easier to pull a trigger, especially during volatile times. Newsday, the Long Island-based newspaper that covers Belcher's hometown of West Babylon, N.Y., reported that the relationship between live-in girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and Belcher became more strained after the birth of their 3-month-old daughter, according to some family members. Having the baby shortly before the beginning of the Kansas City Chiefs' season apparently contributed to the increased stress level. "It wasn't a healthy thing that was going on," cousin Angela U. Perkins, 32, of Round Rock, Texas, told Newsday of the relationship between Belcher and Kasandra.

Angela Perkins added: "There was just a lot going on. She was stressed. He was stressed. It just started to go bad, but they had the child, and they were trying to make it work."

Furthermore, the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy is sure to surface in analyzing the Belcher case, especially after the Boston University Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy released a contact sports-military study on Monday concluding there is growing evidence linking repeated head trauma to brain disease. And Belcher became at least the sixth NFL player to commit suicide since 2011.

Now, suppose there was no gun in the house. No trigger to pull. There's one element of this case that is often overlooked: Belcher also committed murder, when many of us only focus on the suicide, probably because Belcher was an NFL player, a public figure.

And suppose there were no guns on the streets.

Then, seven people probably would be alive today in Chicago, where there has been a massacre nearly every weekend this year on the South Side. Read this from the Huffington Post:

"Nearly 40 people were wounded in gun violence over one of Chicago's bloodiest weekends in recent months this weekend. According to Fox Chicago, seven people were killed in shootings and one in a stabbing incident over the weekend in Chicago. ..."

That's a 7-to-1 ratio — shootings to stabbings in the Windy City from a few days ago.

And people have the nerve to say guns don't kill people, people kill people.

All of this brings us to basketball great Michael Jordan. In 1993, when his father was shot and killed by two 18-year-olds in North Carolina, Jordan would have been an ideal public advocate for the gun-control argument. Star power, crossover appeal and everything else in between. However, the typically apolitical Jordan remained typically just that — apolitical, at least publicly.

Mike shouldn't have been like Mike.

Belcher's mother, who heard her son shooting Kasandra "multiple times," and his family don't have to be like Mike either. They have an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Brady and Carolyn McCarthy — two strong women who carry the torch for stricter gun laws.

In December 1993, McCarthy's husband was shot to death during a tragic killing spree on the Long Island Rail Road. Her son was severely wounded. McCarthy took her cause to Congress — literally. In 1996, she ran for office, becoming a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Brady is the wife of James Brady, the former White House press secretary who was shot in the head during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in March 1981. Most of us have heard of the Brady Bill.

Belcher's mother could be like Sarah and Carolyn — not like Mike.

Again, what if there was no gun in the house.

Gregory Clay is assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service in Washington. Email him at gclaymctinfoservices.com.

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