Gun Control One More Time

The murder and suicide by Jovan Belcher leads yet again to the gun control debate. Bob Costas, siding with by citing Jason Whitlock, says it well:

“Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “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.”
“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. In the coming days, 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.”

Costas now says, “I am emphatically not backing off from anything I said.” He called for “a combination of enlightened legislation and controls, coupled with an adjustment in our attitude toward guns.” He added, “Common sense tells us the culture is overrun by guns and that many people who possess them are dangerous or careless.”  He also rejected criticism of his comments as inappropriate for a football audience.

He said the criticisms of his commentary “hold no weight with me” because the same people saying that that was an inappropriate time and place to talk about the gun issue “would have thought it was fine if they agreed with what I was saying.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    I await the many hornets.

  • Rick

    Fellow Fox Sports writer Jen Floyd Engek responded to Whitlock:

    “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.”

    http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/kansas-city-chiefs-jovan-belcher-suicide-murder-no-reason-to-take-away-rights-120512

  • Thomas

    Regardless of what your position is on the second amendment or gun control, the problem that concerns me is even the clarification that Costas made when he makes his comments to increase gun restriction. Look at the data. Find out how many gun crimes are committed with guns that are stolen or illegally obtained. Now try to find the number of gun crimes committed by people with the firearm that they legally obtained. The reality is people kill people. Not having a firearm didn’t keep Cain from killing Able.

  • http://falantedios.wordpress.com Nick Gill

    Ask Nicole Brown Simpson whether she thinks angry people need guns to kill.

    Ohwait…

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    It’s the rage that is the problem. It starts with “Raca.”

  • BradK

    If only OJ Simpson had not possessed a knife, Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman would be alive today. I just don’t understand how someone can make a statement like Whitlock’s. It may or may not be true. But it is definitely irrational. I don’t know what the answer is, but it is definitely not so simple as merely gun control.

  • http://www.timgombis.com Tim Gombis

    Not to agree or disagree with Costas’s point, but just to say that NBC’s Sunday Night Football is loaded with very sharp people and that’s one major reason I watch–Al Michaels, Chris Collinsworth, and Bob Costas can engage intelligently on most any sports or social issue.

  • David Hardin

    It’s easy to blame guns and gun culture. It’s much harder to go to the deeper more serious issues at the root of such violence.

  • EricW
  • PJ Anderson

    If you add up the populations of Japan, France, the UK, and Italy you get a population equivalent to the US and four first world countries like the US.

    Last year they had 1.3 gun deaths per 100,000 people.
    Last year the US had 10.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

    We have a gun problem. We have a social problem. We have a gun control problem.

  • http://differentcloth.blogspot.com Jeff Stewart

    PJ Anderson: Are there similar statistics in regards to other weapons – like knives? I’m sure what you’ve posted is accurate, but I think perspective is helpful.

  • http://davidwarkentin.blogspot.com/ David Warkentin

    This is an insightful article into the obsession of sports and the feeling of intrusion with Costas’ message:
    http://sports.nationalpost.com/2012/12/04/bob-costas-could-have-taken-thorny-gun-violence-issue-even-further/

  • Gloria

    I support Costas 100%. Good for him to speak wisdom into the madness of the gun violence in this country.

  • http://donttakemyword.blogspot.com/ scott f

    Knive? Dangerous to be sure. BUT I can run away from a guy with a knife. One study compared Seattle with Vancouver (strict gun controls) and found the same number of violent attacks with the big difference that many more victims survive knife assaults.

    (http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1992-09-27/news/9201240223_1_colin-loftin-homicides-and-suicides-gun-control-laws)

    “When people get angry enough or depressed enough to want to kill someone or kill themselves, they grab the heaviest weaponry around. If that weapon is a knife or a club, there will probably be blood, broken bones and bruises. If a gun is handy, it is more likely there will be a corpse.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I particularly like Costas remark “Common sense tells us the culture is overrun by guns …” It is useless to try and convince people using facts what quite common sense would say.

  • Bill

    This is not a gun problem. It is intellectually dishonest of Costas to even say so. It is a violence problem.

    I agree with Dave Hardin. We need to go deeper.

  • BradK

    The U.S. has the highest number of guns per capita in the world at almost 90 guns per 100 residents in 2007. The U.S. had a firearm homicide rate of around 4 per 100,000 population in the 2006 time frame. By comparison, Switzerland also has a high number of guns per capita at about 45 per 100 residents. But they have a firearm homicide rate that is only about 0.58 per 100,000 population, a number than is 7-8 times as low as the U.S. If the solution to gun violence was as simple as many would like to make it, we should see a direct correlation between the number and availability of guns and firearm homicide rates, right? But this is not true, is it?

  • Steve

    “Knive? Dangerous to be sure. BUT I can run away from a guy with a knife.”

    Tell that to Nicole Simpson or Ron Goldman or to the many victims of John Wayne Gacy or those of Jeffery Dahmer.

  • Patrick

    Americans are violent as a group, this explains why Swiss have more per capita guns than us and less violence.

    The error of Costas is he just cannot understand human evil, so something inanimate needs blaming.

    The man murdered a helpless human who was also the mother of his own kid in front of her mother.

    He is culpable, and the fact he like we can access a gun didn’t cause him to do this. I can access cocaine, too. I don’t murder folks or snort coke. I just choose not to.

  • Chris Patton

    Two quick comments:
    1. I’d be curious to see some commentary on how the glorification of violence within football correlates to violence in other aspects of football players lives (I’m not talking concussions here). It would be interesting to hear the argument “if there were no football in this young man’s life then there would have been no tragedy.”

    2. James D. Hunter in “to Change the World” made a correlation between the decline in what we have in common value (and narrative) wise and an increase in legislation needed to protect and guide. I wish there was some larger conversation at play that was discussing the deconstruction of any common “American” narrative that may have deleterious effects on curbing violence. Guns are an issue, but I doubt changes in legal accessibility get to the heart of a larger issue at play. I heard Costas and read Whitlock. Many people heard “gun” as the emphatic word. I wonder if the real story comes out in emphasizing the “culture” end of that phrase and work begins to be done beyond legislating safety to change a culture not just gun ownership and possession.

  • Jeremy B.

    I have mixed emotions about this one. On the one hand, removing guns won’t resolve the underlying problem. On the other hand, it is overly simplistic to declare that guns aren’t the problem and therefore gun control will not help in any way.

    Coming from a violent US city, and having lived in Canada for a few years, I can testify to the radically violent nature of American culture. There is something about our mentality that makes us more prone to resolving conflict through force that is more prevalent here than in other cultures. Canadians have guns too (yeah, no handguns, but still a lot of long guns) but our entire approach is utterly mystifying to them.

    We saw this in Florida when the “Stand Your Ground” law passed and the justified gun deaths tripled without a relative decrease in homicide rates. We are afraid and someone convinced us guns are the answer.

  • Jeremy B.

    Patrick – The problem with that argument is that coke is illegal and while not too difficult to find, availability is a bit of a problem. Go out today and try to buy some without using established connections or an ability to meet the highly paranoid expectations of strangers. It’s more difficult than you think (Alas, I speak from personal experience on both sides of that equation).

  • http://wildebeestchronicles.blogger.com Win V

    It’s not that we necessarily need gun control or don’t need gun control. What we need is good conflict resolution training in the schools. Right now our schools do great at teaching kids what NOT to do, but not how to actually resolve their differences. As a result we graduate adults who are like children in their approach to conflict resolution. Go to any concealed handgun training class and you get a long, long time spent on keeping your adult reasoning in any conflict and walking away when you can. If children can be taught proper conflict resolution and how to express it, the problem we are seeing with extraordinary frustration and loss of empowerment goes away (because now the new adult knows how to handle it) and these problems go away.

    Using statistics to prove your point (like # per 100,000, etc) masks the true problem of domestic violence. Teaching proper conflict resolution and conflict management will mitigate the problem before it ever gets that far. And save a lot more families, by the way.

    There are lots of nations with even more guns than America yet they have lower gun violence rates as someone mentioned above. The root cause is American’s need to learn how to handle conflict and anger instead of being controlled and disempowered by it. Fix that and the problem gets severely reduced.

    If someone is really mad and in a murderous rage, they will find a way to kill someone. I’ve heard of people using keys, pencils, pens, knives, swords, bats, and all sorts of other instruments to satisfy a murderous rage. Teach them how to avoid getting into that rage in the first place and how to walk away or deal with their anger before it gets that far, and this goes away.

  • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

    I currently live in Japan. Last year there were eleven gun deaths – eleven in a country with the population a third that of the US, on an island about the size of California – so consider how much more dense the population is in the cities. Murder in general isn’t very common. In Asia, (I’ve spent the last seven and a half years in Japan and China) there is an underlying ingrained assumption that Americans are violent and blood thirsty, that they love war and guns and are animals that rule by force. Some of this goes into vast cultural differences, but it is interesting how we keep doing things to “confirm” the stereotype – Chinese students especially would ask after a shooting incident in the US hit the news – why all the Americans jumped in immediately to declare why it wasn’t the guns fault. They said we were more worried about our “freedom to own a gun” than about “people.” Why would we want to push such “freedoms” on the rest of the world if we care nothing about people?

    I am not saying they are right, I am saying I understand from their point of view how our culture in their eyes devalues the very freedoms we intend to export. It appears that our version of freedom has more to do with doing want we want with no interference than with concern for the community. From a highly collectivist culture vantagepoint, we sound insane, and uncivilized. As if people have no control over murdering someone, (the people kill people argument) so why not just make it as easy as possible?

    I am still trying to figure out what I actually think, but I have to admit, 7 1/2 years of living in fairly safe communities where I can walk the streets at night alone and not worry, have made me rethink the issue from my formerly Texan, drinking the Koolaid perspective :) I don’t know where I stand now, but their questions are starting to make a lot of sense……

  • Jag

    I fundamentally reject the proposition that you are as much a danger to me and my family if you carry a knife as if you carry an AK or a Glock.

    Would you send our soldiers to war carrying swords?

  • Patrick

    Jeremy,

    Yea, that’ wasn’t the best analogy.

    I choose not to drive my car over people though and that is easy to do.

    It’s the evil human heart, not the inanimate object that causes this.

    Jesus Himself advised His folks to arm themselves.

    I wish I was a “gun possessor” once when I came home and a professional thieving group was about to break into my home with my wife inside.

    That was a very awful feeling of weakness, I advise no one to get into that dilemma.

  • Trav

    Again, the humble Aussie listens on in Amazement at Americans talking about Gun Control.

    Truly Puzzling.

    The quotes Scot has cited from Costas and Whitlock are not only true, they’re completely obvious.

    Yes, people kill people. But what an insanely unhelpful statement that is to make! People use various means to kill people. It just so happens that bullets are a particularly easy and effective method! In fact, it’s equally true that “Bullets kill people” if you want to be technical about it. We’re only talking the agency/mechanism distinction here. People are agents. The mechanism could be bullets, or knife wounds, or haemorraging caused by hitting the ground after being punched.

  • Trav

    Without meaning to sound Racist, and I hope it doesn’t come across this way. But from the perspective of this Aussie, tt truly is a blight on the individualistic American culture that this stuff is even being discussed. Many Americans are obsessed with individual “Freedoms” to the extent that they can’t see the Forest for the Trees.

    I’d much rather live in a safe community where no madman is going to go on a shooting rampage. I’d much rather feel safe than have the “Right” to defend myself with a gun.

  • Jenny

    Again, as an outsider, looking in, this makes no sense to a Brit. Yes, violent people may use knives if they can’t use guns, but as someone who worked in a big inner-city ER department, I know that most of the knife wounds we had were relatively trivial, (compare a knife wound to the face with a gun wound to the face) and as it was the UK, I never saw a gun wound (except a drive-by shooting with an air-rifle, but I don’t think that really counts as the pellet barely broke the skin, our UK guns are less deadly than our knives!). Why is gun ownership such a fundamental human right in the US, somehow more sacred than the right to life?

    I now live in Khartoum, Sudan, where it is safe for me to go out at night without fear of violent crime. But I have several Sudanese friends who have lost relatives who were shot while living as immigrants in the US. Ironic to think these mothers had celebrated the fact that their sons had escaped this war-torn country to go to the Great Free US. I laugh when people from the US ask if it is safe to visit here, when I feel safer here than if I were to visit their cities.

  • fb

    I’m a bit conflicted on this issue. I don’t own a gun and don’t ever expect to, but I’m surprised some people seem to think we can make guns disappear altogether, and I’m wary of those who think we can have VERY strict gun laws with no negative consequences.

    We already have gun control. The question is whether even stricter gun control would be a good thing or whether the downside of it would be worse than the current state of affairs (which obviously has its own costs). On that front, I’m dubious. It’s like outlawing drugs; does it keep people from getting and using them? Maybe a bit, but not very well, and the cost in violated civil rights and incarceration — both of which have a nasty racial edge — not to mention the cost in dollars and too-scarce law enforcement resources, is terrible. When I think of what that money and energy could accomplish in education, housing, social programs for the needy, I grieve.

    I do think that Whitlock’s argument is seriously flawed. Yes, if Belcher didn’t have a gun, maybe his girlfriend would still be alive. But how would we ENSURE that he could never have a gun? Outlawing guns does NOT mean that no one can get a gun, only that it’s not legal for them to do so. But the kind of people who misuse them are unlikely to be deterred by such a requirement. When my family and I lived in a large Canadian city, guns were much more rare, but it didn’t keep a horrible mass shooting (Columbine-style) from happening — after which I discovered that it had happened two other times in recent memory.

    Finally, I am convinced that being a Christian demands an ethic of non-aggression. I haven’t made my way to total pacifism, but if we could even get to non-aggression (yes, even as a nation) as a non-negotiable, I think that would be a God-honoring start.

  • http://restlessfaith.blogspot.com chad m

    i’m confused as to why the same people who concede that our society is plagued by the real issues of rage, domestic violence, poverty, and on and on think we need more guns? so we admit our culture is wrought with social issues and the answer is to make violent weapons more available?

    God help us. It’s embarrassing.

  • Amanda B.

    I’m torn on the issue of gun control. At one level, I think gun ownership is a bit laughable in light of the intent of the Second Amendment–me and a shotgun will do diddly-squat against a war drone. I can see how fewer guns could lead to fewer violent deaths. But I also doubt it’s as simple as just outlawing them all. I imagine the law-abiding citizens dutifully turning their guns in, leaving the guns in the hands of criminals who now have the almost-certain assurance of outgunning anyone they want to victimize, or else self-appointed vigilantes who ain’t-a-gonna let no Washington bigwig take away their shotgun, because SOME honest folk have gotta have the means to fight back, goshdernit.

    It’s worth mentioning too that there are people in the rural parts of the U.S. who actually do *need* guns–not for use against humans, but wild animals, to defend themselves, their crops, their livestock, or to hunt their own food (VERY rural). I don’t think it’s fair to take their justifiable use of firearms away because people in big cities abuse the privilege. But then if we only ban guns in certain locations, then there’s nothing to stop people from obtaining weapons in the country to use them in the city.

    I have no love for guns, and would not really mind if we could actually disarm our entire population, but like I said–it’s complicated. A ban would solve some problems, and create others. It’s not a cure-all. Having more properly trained gun owners in our society would also solve some problems while creating others. I’m not convinced anyone’s got a very good solution right now–things would be very different if the Second Amendment had never existed.

    The biggest problem I had with Costas’ statement, though, was the final paragraph in the above article. To claim that others “would have thought it was fine if they agreed with what I was saying” is so circular, it blows my mind. “If people agreed with me, they would agree with me.” Yeah, no joke. I don’t mind that he wants harsher gun control. I don’t mind that he thinks this incident is a good illustration as to why. I *do* think that it was inappropriate for him to comment on it before the victim was cold in her grave, and I think it is wildly inappropriate for him to dismiss all criticism, as if being right gives him permission to rub salt in the wounds of the grieving people involved.

  • Katy

    So many of the questions people here seem to have might be answered by just taking a look at other countries who have found answers that work. In the UK, we don’t even arm our police with guns, but have much lower levels of homicide, including murder of police, so that when a couple of police are killed as recently, it’s national news for weeks. We don’t allow handguns, but my father (rural) has a shotgun for pest control, licenced and with very strict rules about storage (locked cabinet checked by police) to avoid possible accidents or unauthorised access.

  • metanoia

    Chicago (my home town) has some of the toughest gun-control laws on the books and ranks consistently in the top 3 in homicide rates in the country. I know it’s a cliche, but if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns. When you can find a rational argument for how tougher gun control will result in less crime, people will listen. Until then there are two things that remain true. 1) It’s a Constitutional issue. 2) A well trained gun owner stands a much better chance at deterring a crime when facing an untrained gun carrying thug. The only gun control I support is the gun I can control.

  • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

    Guns are like a surrogate religion in the US; we idolize them and believe they symbolize some sort of freedom. From living in Asia for seven plus years now, yeah I see how ridiculous it is, and why most people from outside think its bizarre – it truly is bizarre.

    But we have made up our minds. After every major shooting in the US, the NRA gains more power. Mass murder actually makes us cling to them MORE. Obama said not one word after the Aurora shooting yet people freaked out and gun sales went up. It’s crazy to think after every mass shooting that its the gun companies that end up profiting off of it. No wonder they use scare tactics – look how much money they make from each shooting incident.

    I almost think we are hopeless as a nation to talk to in any sort of sense about gun control. We don’t want to solve our problem. We would rather keep our guns than be safe as a society, and have convinced ourselves that guns make us safer. It is as much part of our national psychic religion as “liberty” “freedom” and our messed up version of “Christianity.”

    I’m just trying to stay out of the country as much as possible. It seems far easier than believing Americans will actually have a sensible discussion about this topic any time soon.

  • http://timdedeaux.com Tim Dedeaux

    Honestly, I think Costas was projecting. He knows his sport has a serious domestic violence problem, so he lashes out at something tangential: guns. Abusive men have never needed guns to kill their wives/girlfriends … especially large men who spend their days being professionally trained in physical strength and aggression.

    But he doesn’t want to bite the hand that feeds, so he blames the gun. Maybe he should step up and take a look at the NFL’s tendency to ignore allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault. Maybe he should step up and take a look at the culture of the NFL.

    Nope. He knows where his bread is buttered.


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