Javon Belcher killed his girlfriend, committed suicide and orphaned his daughter. If the Kansas City linebacker had not put a gun in his hand during those moments when he was seized by rage and despair, the 3-month-old baby girl would have had a chance to grow up with her mother and father.
Now she has no chance. She is another innocent victim damaged by the gun culture that has ensnared too many athletes. We are saddened by such senseless tragedy but no longer shocked. The precedents are numerous: Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Mike Flanagan killed themselves. Jayson Williams carelessly killed his driver. Rae Carruth paid a hit man to shoot his pregnant girlfriend; she died, the baby boy brain-damaged by a lack of oxygen survived and is being raised by his grandmother. Sports strong men needed only the twitch of a finger to pull the trigger in a heartbeat of weakness.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence on Monday re-released its July 2012 study entitled Guns in Sports: How Guns Have Affected the Athletic Community and What It Tells Us About Americas Gun Crisis.
The report contains 100 narratives on athletes who have killed themselves, killed others or been killed. And that doesnt include all the close calls, life-altering injuries, prison sentences.
Each case contains its own awful details. Its difficult to shunt them into categories or label them with statistics. But they do have one single thing in common: Guns.
Former NFL coach Tony Dungy, who lost a son to suicide, recalled addressing his Colts players. When asked how many possessed guns, three quarters raised their hands.
What compels pro athletes to be gun owners in disproportionate numbers? Why did Plaxico Burress feel he needed to carry a gun to a nightclub? And if he did, why go there in the first place? Why did Gilbert Arenas bring a gun into the locker room?
Suddenly fabulously wealthy and famous, young athletes cant resist the lure of gun culture. Guns afford them security and status ironically, the very things they have achieved by becoming the top 1 percent of 1 percent in their field. Some feel they are targets for troublemakers and thieves and need protection. A gun is a macho badge of badness seemingly redundant for intimidating superheroes.
The right to bear arms has been a delicate issue since the United States was created by revolution. How far does that right extend? To the mentally impaired? To those who get drunk or high? To someone standing his ground? To people who buy guns on the illegal market or who avoid background checks or leave guns lying around a house with children? To people who want to own assault weapons?
One school of thought: Guns dont kill; people do. They would argue that Sean Taylor, Steve McNair, Hector Macho Camacho and Belchers girlfriend could have survived if they shot their killers first.
Heres the counter argument, backed by data: People are far less likely to kill if they dont have a gun in their hands. Only 10 percent of suicide attempts with guns are not fatal.
Guns dont kill but gun owners do. Gun ownership in the U.S. 200 million firearms -- is insanely out of whack compared to other nations. So, it follows, is the number of people shot with a gun every year 100,000. So, it follows, is the population behind bars. We've got 3 million people serving time, giving rise to a prison industry that now dwarfs many manufacturing sectors. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you: A large storage facility enclosed by barbed wire for human beings.