"Gun Culture" & the NFL

Bob Costas is taking some heat for these comments he made during halftime on Sunday Night Football.

You can read a transcript of his comments at CNN. His most controversial comments were direct quotes from an article written by sports writer Jason Whitlock:

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.

In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.

That is the message I wish Chiefs players, professional athletes and all of us would focus on Sunday and moving forward. Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.

Political opportunists on the right are running around with their hair on fire screaming about Costas using his platform to push a political agenda, as if there is nothing political about the military flyovers and the "Pledge Allegiance to the Flag" that precedes every single sporting event. Unfortunately, what I haven't seen anybody do is challenge the flawed logic employed by Jason Whitlock and shared by Bob Costas. What does he mean by our "gun culture"? The right to bear arms is enshrined in our Bill of Rights, so guns are every bit as part of our culture as freedom of speech.

I grew up in a region of the country where hunting is very popular. On the first day of hunting season, there were almost no guys at school (just the gays, the geeks, and the preps). In some areas, school was cancelled on the first day of hunting season. Where I grew up, it seemed like everybody owned guns, but gun violence was practically non-existent. When I hear the term "gun culture," I think of our neighbor delivering venison. I think of the cars parked by highway near the popular hunting grounds. I think of the guys at school wearing their camouflage clothes to school.

What Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas refer to as a "gun culture" would more accurately be called a "culture of violence". We should be horrified that man killed his wife and committed suicide. We should be horrified that a teenager was killed for playing loud music in a parking lot. Guns did not kill those people. Kasandra Perkins was a victim of domestic violence. Every day, more than three women are killed during acts of domestic violence. Each year, domestic violence costs our country $5.8 billion dollars in health care spending, lost wages, and other costs. Will a ban on handguns end domestic violence? A ban on handguns certainly would not have prevented a murder-suicide in my hometown, where a man took the life of his wife and stepson.

Whitlock and Costas also raised the case of 17-year old Jordan Davis, who was killed by a gun-weilding lunatic angry about the loud music coming from his car. If handguns were banned, might Jordan Davis be alive today? Perhaps, but what would prevented Michael Dunn from owning an illegal handgun, or using a shotgun? Jordan Davis died as a result of a gunshot wound, but he was a victim of a culture that places less value on the lives of young black men than others. Jordan Davis was a victim of modern American racism. Blaming his murder on a handgun excuses the culture that devalued his very existence.

Let's have a conversation about violence in our culture. But limiting our conversation to guns and who says what during Sunday Night Football doesn't get at the problem. It allows it to flourish.

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and doctors used to make house calls

Shahryar's picture

you can romanticize the good old days of hunting season if you like. That's not what Costas was talking about. Personally I believe that "expanding" the discussion is a way to avoid the discussion.

Yes, of course, this is a violent society. Ok, we've discussed that. Now, what should we do, in this violent society, about weapons that make it easy for that violence to include murder? Or do you want to sidetrack the discussion again before we get to dealing with the gun issue?

Because people will be getting killed while we have that discussion, the one that never actually gets around to figuring out what to do about the weapons.

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Difficult situation

Big Al's picture

With over half a billion to a billion guns in this country, the process to cleanse them would take the police state to a higher level.  I've never had a big dog in the hunt other than my total distrust of certain levels of government and law enforcement, and we can add Homeland Security to that, makes me not want to give up the mostly symbolic 2nd Amendment rights.  The world would be a better place without guns.   Maybe citizens could agree to disarm if our governments agreed to disarm. 

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I believe that no longer to be true

geomoo's picture

The weapons of citizens are like bows and arrows when compared with the weapons of the government people propose to battle with violence.  Drones, missiles, mortars, tanks--citizens own none of these sorts of weapons.  To battle the government with them is to commit suicide.  That's my opinion, althought it is speculative.  Perhaps some symbolic importance.  Perhaps against local police, but even that is unlikely unless the percentage of citizens rising up is large.

I think Al hits the nail on the head--let citizens AND government disarm.  The violence of war is directly connected with the attitude and habits of mind which create domestic violence.  That's the point.  Guns are but one result of that ill--the ego of man, testerone.  And unlawful behavior during war time indulging the unholy urges of violence and domination is what makes actual war so horribly unthinkable, unlike the sanitized version of US soldiers coming to ball games all serious and not in rape mode.

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The "good old days of hunting season"

type1error's picture

I'm not that old, Shahryar. We're not talking about clinging to our eight-track tapes here. I'm talking about the culture of the community where I was raised. And that culture hasn't changed. One of my high school friends was writing on facebook while deer-hunting just the other day.

Are we more violent now than the "good old days of hunting season" because of gun laws? Or did something else change?

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yes, we're more violent (or seem to be)

Shahryar's picture

But, while we're figuring out why (and I have some ideas on that, for another post) we need to take away the dangerous items.

Consider this: Little psychotic Billy has taken scissors and stabbed the furniture and is now eyeing his even littler sister. Do you take the scissors away from him or do you think "he'd probably strangle Sis so we'll let him keep the scissors and try to cure him of being psychotic"? I would think the first thing you'd do is take the scissors and *then* deal with his underlying problem.

 

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what if it keeps happening?

Shahryar's picture

moving to another aspect of this, handguns aren't going to be very useful against a tyrannical government. Our benevolent American government has no problem with killing bystanders (and then posthumously calling them "militants" or "militant sympathizers") with drones. You'll need an RPG launcher and then hope to get out of the way of the retaliation.

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What is the criteria for confiscating guns?

type1error's picture

The number of people murdered? According to the CDC, there were 11,493 firearm homicides in 2009. Is that number large enough? How do you determine the appropriate number.

Also consider that, in the same year, 15,183 people died of alcohol-related liver disease and 24,518 people died of alcohol-induced deaths (excluding accidents and homicides). Another 10,228 people were killed in car accidents caused by alcohol use.

What would save more lives -- banning guns or banning alcohol?

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confiscating? That seems like "they're coming after me"

Shahryar's picture

which would explain why one might want a gun. I'd prefer to make it difficult to get a gun instead of insanely easy. We hear all sorts of talk about means testing people so they don't get "free money" like their social security (and a lot of people let that go by without complaining) but say that we need to make sure people with mental health problems don't get guns and there's an uproar about the constitution.

If there's a file on someone concerning domestic abuse that person should not be able to buy a gun. I'm not suggesting the government go into people's homes and take away the guns they already have...or that the UN is coming for you.

As for the alcohol argument, what's that got to do with guns? That's another diversionary tactic. If you want to argue against alcohol go ahead. I won't do it for you. But understand that others see it as a way of, once again, not discussing guns.

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Making it difficult to get guns.

type1error's picture

There are already laws to keep guns away from people with mental illness. I wouldn't have a problem with that, nor do I object to people convicted of violent crimes losing their gun rights. But I suspect that criminals know how to get guns. What I would object to would be punishing law-abiding, responsible gun owners because people are irresponsible.

I think I've shown a willingness to discuss guns, here. I brought up alcohol because it is responsible for more deaths than guns. If we're talking about restricting gun rights because guns are dangerous, shouldn't we be doing the same with alcohol?

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Great discussion, sorry I'm late

geomoo's picture

I've been thinking about this, but something happened when I first came to this essay, and I only saw the video--didn't see the discussion.

I want to point out one thing that makes it sad no matter who has the more accurate assessment of the state of things:  this discussion is driven by very wealthy, very powerful weapons manufacturers.  It is controlled by people who would have you killed before they would let you chip into their profits.  I'm sorry, but I think that is the precise case.

I'll post my less reactive thoughts in a separate post.

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Inside the NFL had an spot on discussion

geomoo's picture

This is a surprising place.  Kevin Powell, who didn't win my heart over when I googled him after this, said exactly what I want to say. It was heartening to see this.  From my point of view, they were putting things in silos, not connecting the nearly necessity with which the violence of the NFL, as well as the violence of war, will be associated with rape, murder, and suicide.

What I like about what he says, and what I've been thinking for years now, is that the necessary thing, the most important thing, is for men themselves to change their culture, to stop allowing certain kinds of demeaning things to be said as if joking or merely posing.

There was an irony on this program.  As they were leaving the air, Phil Sims was kidding Chris Collingsworth, saying sarcastically how much he enjoys working with him.  It was a continuation of their on-going theme of kidding competitiveness and pretend mutual dislike.  To my mind, their behavior falls into the category of aggression and being demeaning.  Can people be demeaning with male friends, but not be demeaning to female friends?  Is it possible to change yourself like that?

Anyway, this is pretty interesting.

 

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I don't think people can turn it on or off

Shahryar's picture

"Can people be demeaning with male friends, but not be demeaning to female friends?  Is it possible to change yourself like that?"

I don't think so. I've spent time with guys who do that sort of thing and it's really unpleasant. I've also seen them interacting with women. If they don't know the women then there's a whole lot of sexism. If they do know them then there's an undercurrent of condescension. They try to behave but it's there.

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Yep

geomoo's picture

It's gotten a lot better than when I was growing up, or maybe it's just that now I choose who I hang with.  When I was growing up, people would say the most disgusting things and think it was funny or cool.  Nobody ever challenged them, including me.

I've long imagined, but done nothing about it, that an effective program would be to have men volunteer, when there is domestic violence, to talk to the man.  To have a manly upright talk about women and what is okay.  The idea is to change the peer pressure.  I don't mean a lecture or a talking to, I mean talking about things but bringing one's own gentler attitude, demonstrating by example that it's okay to feel what's underneath, that there a lot of people have been hurt by unfaithfulness, for example, and that that's painful, so let's talk about it.  Change wounds, peceived or imagined, from challenges to manhood and control and more toward emotional experiences to be discussed sympathetically with other men, who have been there themselves.  I don't know if I'm coming across.  This would operate in conjunction with a woman's shelter, and would only be for contrite men expressing interest in changing. It would also be dangerous.

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