Thursday, December 06, 2012

More On Costas and Guns

I’ve been thinking of posting more, to follow up on my earlier post, about the kerfuffle over Bob Costas’ comments Sunday night regarding the Jovan Belcher/Kasandra Perkins murder/suicide case, and about this country’s gun culture, but Will Bunch’s HuffPo blog post is more worth your time than anything I might write. The money quote:

Look, I'm a politics fanatic and a sports fanatic — and I don't want to see stark political commentary become a regular halftime feature. But every once in [a] while, there is something that that, in [Mario] Savio's words, makes you so sick at heart that exercising your right to free speech — in a place and at a time that will shock some people, to wake them out of their slumber — isn't just brave, but it is absolutely necessary.

Bob Costas threw himself on the gears Sunday night, even as the me-too machine of “popular" opinion chewed him up. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Why Is This Controversial?

Yesterday, in my regular perambulation around Teh Intertooooobz™, I came across this HuffPo article presenting Bob Costas' Sunday Night Football comments about the tragic story of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder of his girlfriend and subsequent suicide. Costas anticipates the inevitable "mindless cliche" that a story like this "really puts it all in perspective," and quotes/paraphrases Fox Sports analyst Jason Whitlock's column on the story, which says, in part:
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.

.... What I believe is, if [Belcher] didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
Costas' comments were variously described as "controversial" and as generating a "firestorm of reaction," and the HuffPo article includes a slideshow of tweets in response. In the face of the controversy, Costas has now said his comments were "a mistake" (though he certainly did not apologize for his stand on gun culture), but I wish he hadn't: While it's true that a 90-second spot during a football broadcast is not enough time for a nuanced discussion of complex issues, even starting the conversation was valuable, and the outrage of people who don't think "politics" belongs on a sports broadcast is a Feature, Not a Bug©!

My question is, why in the hell is any of this controversial? How can anyone doubt that the gun culture in this country makes us less safe? Or that, like countless other victims of domestic and interpersonal violence, Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher would likely still be alive if a gun hadn't been easy to hand?

Certainly the issues around gun culture, and what to do about it, are complex, as Costas says, but I want to focus on one of the tweets featured in HuffPo, from Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce (@jkelce):
Does Bob Costas know that people are murdered everyday by means other than gunshots? Removing guns will not stop psychos from killing people
Some variation of this argument always comes up whenever there's been a shooting that results in public conversation about guns, and it's always transparent bat crap. Of course there are other ways to kill people besides guns, but so what? Guns make it vastly easier to kill people, and to do so quicker, from a greater distance, and with less exposure to personal risk: That's the whole frickin' reason they exist!!

For those gun advocates who eagerly declare that guns aren't really required to do all sorts of mayhem, let me just ask: If that's so, why are you so scared that somebody might take away your guns? Surely you can do the things you need them for — defend your home and family from crime, repel tyrants, hunt elk, whatever — just as easily with a pocketknife or a fireplace poker, right? After all, what's good enough for "psychos" ought to be good enough for heroes, too, oughtn't it?

It's ridiculous.

Could Belcher have beaten Kasandra Perkins to death, or stabbed her, or run her over with his car? Sure. But he couldn't have done any of those things with a single, instantaneous, thoughtless twitch of one finger. And he could have started to do any of those things and still had a chance to stop himself before it was too late.

A determined killer will, I agree, find some way to kill, gun or no. But from all we can tell, this is not a story about a determined killer: It's a story about a young man who got angry with his girlfriend. It's a story about an argument that, in all likelihood, only turned lethal because Jovan Belcher happened to have lethal force literally at his fingertips. Jason Kelce may think it's a "MORONIC statement" for Whitlock to say, and Costas to repeat, that Belcher and Perkins would be alive if there hadn't been a handgun in the picture; I think it's stone cold truth.

How many other arguments have turned deadly in just the same way, because a gun happened to be nearby? How many petty crimes turned to murder? How many accidents and misunderstandings have led straight to the grave because a gun was involved? And when we are talking about "psychos," how much greater the body count because they have one or two or four or six guns than if they had knives or swords or clubs instead?

I don't hate guns categorically, or want to ban them (or think banning them would be politically possible even if I did want to), but please, for the love of all that's holy, can we stop pretending our gun culture doesn't make us less safe? Can we at least try to have a much-needed discussion about this topic with some semblance of sanity?