The Costas controversy

By Tom Cardella

Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 15 | Posted Dec. 13, 2012

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The world turned upside down for some sports fans a couple of weeks ago when Bob Costas spoke about the problem of too many gun deaths in America during halftime of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Costas brought the gun issue up in relation to the murder-suicide that week of Kansas City Chiefs player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend. 

There is an unwritten rule in the world of sports that you never allow controversial real world issues to intrude in the fantasy world of sports. As if to emphasize that point, the Chiefs went ahead with their scheduled game just 28 hours after Belcher murdered his girlfriend and then shot himself in the parking lot of the team’s facilities while his coach and general manager looked on in horror.

A bunch of folks (not all of them members of the National Rifle Association) complained that halftime of a football game was the wrong time to address the gun-control issue. Some went further and questioned the credentials of Costas, a sportscaster, to even comment at all. He ended his commentary with a quote from sports columnist Jason Whitlock in which he said if there had been no guns in the Belcher household, both the athlete and his girlfriend would be alive today. 

First let’s set the record straight. Costas is not just the premier sports commentator of our time, he has also hosted shows where the content was not limited to sports (“Costas Coast To Coast” and later “Costas on the Radio”). You can agree or disagree with him on the issue, but please don’t act as if there is a right and a wrong time to discuss this issue. Costas did not gratuitously decide to talk about gun issues. 

Athletes and guns have long been linked, often with disastrous consequences. If the subject had been exactly the same, but instead Costas supported the NRA position, I’m willing to bet the complaints instead would have come mostly from gun-control supporters and NRA members would be wildly supporting Costas right to free speech. As a boss of mine used to say, “Where you stand often depends upon where you sit.” 

The gun issue is one of the most important social issues facing America today, but the strength of the NRA has pretty much silenced any politicians support of gun control, except in the safest districts. President Barack Obama was conspicuously silent on the issue during the past presidential campaign. It seems as if in America there never is a right time to have an intelligent debate about gun laws. Gun enthusiasts often use gun jargon to prove their critics don’t know their subject. The NRA argument has become standard boilerplate — quote the Second Amendment, enforce laws already on the books, and assume any further attempt at sensible gun legislation will inevitably lead to guns being taken away from private citizens and only serve to leave weapons in the hands of criminals.

Consider these statistics — there are more than 300 million guns legally owned in America, which has a population of 310 million. This figure does not include guns sold illegally. One out of every two households has at least one gun. Gun ownership per capita in our country is by far the highest in the world — nearly double that of Yemen and triple that of Iraq. In the US, one out of every 240 Americans is likely to be murdered. In 2009, according to a National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care survey, there were 18,735 suicides by handgun.

I don’t believe in confiscating legally owned guns in this country. My father kept a weapon in his home long after he retired from the police force. He also was a responsible gun owner. I don’t want hunters or gun collectors deprived of their rights, but semi-automatic weapons have no legitimate place in the hands of private citizens in America. 

I do take exception with the Costas/Whitlock statements that had there been no guns in the Belcher household, both he and his girlfriend would be alive today. I understand a gun in the household becomes doubly dangerous during domestic disputes, as it does for any argument anywhere. I also understand it is easier for a severely depressed person to commit suicide if there is easy access to a gun. But days after Costas made his sweeping statement, there was a news report of a violent domestic dispute that ended in tragedy and the weapon of choice was a kitchen knife. 

Access simply to sleeping pills, a belt or a gas range can lead to suicide if folks really want to end their lives. So, no, I don’t believe any of us can say with any assurance that Belcher and his girlfriend would be alive today if there had been no gun in the household. Just as I don’t believe that every time there is a report of a gun owner defending his or her household successfully from a home invasion means we should conclude the victims might not be alive today if they had not had a gun in their home.

We can have stricter requirements for legally obtaining a gun. We can ban the types of weapons that have no place except on a battlefield. Let’s have the debate. Even at halftime of a football game.

Contact the South Philly Review at editor@southphillyreview.com.

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Comments 1 - 15 of 15
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1. Anonymous said... on Dec 13, 2012 at 12:09PM

“This is all you need to know: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Affirmed by District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010).”

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2. vince said... on Dec 13, 2012 at 02:57PM

“Since our militia today only exist in the street gang form, they are not regulated and have only a murderous effect on security.”

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3. Frank said... on Dec 13, 2012 at 08:03PM

“Anonymous#1, you and yours piss me off. And "yours" includes a few Supreme Cout justices who are bending to the will of the masses. Read the amendment you quoted. Whether you place or don't place a comma in that sentence, it should be clear to an unbiased reader that the founders were talking about militia members, not hobbyists in a society with local police protection. I've survived quite well, thanks to the Philadelphia Police force, for 40 years in this town. And I don't want you, or John Roberts, or some drug-addicted 18-year old having access to an assault rifle. I'll take the true logic of the founders over yours any day.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Dec 14, 2012 at 09:39AM

“Suspend reality....”

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5. Frank said... on Dec 14, 2012 at 09:41AM

“Please ignore my previous post, I know I am stupid, please forgive me.”

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6. avon said... on Dec 14, 2012 at 09:47PM

“Why are there so many Negroes in North Philadelphia?”

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7. Tom Cardella said... on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:22AM

“While the NRA clings to its position that semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles are part of your second amendment rights, 20 kids were murdered yesterday in Connecticut with an assault rifle and a semi-automatic weapon.”

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8. Frank said... on Dec 15, 2012 at 11:51AM

In your rather cowardly way of posting under "Frank", you have not only shown your inability to reason but also a vocabulary limited to childish words like "stupid" when confronted by those who would take away your right to own an assault rifle for "self-protection" or "sport". So was the Connecticut shooting "stupid" or are you suddenly going to fall silent like the hypocrites at the NRA?”

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9. Anonymous said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 05:54PM

“To all you anti firearm self defense people out there here is a deal I will make with you. There are numerous crimes of all types happening in Philly as I write this and you read it. In the last few weeks there have been two robberies at gun point of citizens on the street corner just south of us. I will freely give up my firearm when 80 anti gun folks (20 for each) volunteer to escort my wife, our two daughters and I anywhere and everywhere we decide to go outside our home. These volunteers must use their bodies to stop any of our possessions from being taken or prevent any harm from happening to any of us. They must absorb with their bodies any harm which we may have had to deal with were we alone and unarmed, this includes; bats, pipes, knives or bullets, whatever it may be that is used to try and hurt or kill us. I want 20 because the worst case scenario for a handgun is a Glock which have capacities of 15 to 17 bullets. After the incident this should leave the protected person, in a worst case scenario, with 3 to 5 surviving escorts to further protect us until the authorities arrive. Then ASAP we want replacements to show up for duty to keep the number of escorts the same at 20 ea when we venture from our home. You want us unarmed then you pony up and protect us.
Do we have a deal?

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10. Frank said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 08:56PM

“Anonymous#9, you are sick. Why don't you just move to England, where your safety in walking around with your family is statistically, verifiably much better. The worst thing that can happen to you over there is being trailed by the paparazzi. And they speak English. And they have the internet, so you'll still be able to make a public ass of yourself. And mobs of young, angry, violent, black people are not going to attack you and your family when you step outside your door. Oh, and guess what? It's really really hard to buy a gun over there. Now isn't that surprising!”

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11. Avon said... on Dec 17, 2012 at 09:02PM

“But what about the Negroes?”

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12. avon said... on Dec 19, 2012 at 10:09PM

“I thought so. Nobody can give a true answer. I was right all along.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Dec 22, 2012 at 06:29PM

“Yo Frank, I will just stay here and carry my firearm since your side has decided not to take me up on my offer. I'll bet you these numbers keep climbing. Deal? Sorry I forgot no money where your mouth is just more BS.
I never mentioned black folks and the stats in the article do not mention the types of weapons used in other violent crimes. You should move to Sarah Brady’s paradise, you’ll fit in better than me and my family would.
Culture of violence: Gun crime goes up by 89% in a decade
By James Slack
Gun crime has increased five-fold in some parts of the UK
Gun crime has almost doubled since Labour came to power as a culture of extreme gang violence has taken hold.
The latest Government figures show that the total number of firearm offences in England and Wales has increased from 5,209 in 1998/99 to 9,865 last year - a rise of 89 per cent.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223193/Culture-violence-Gun-crime-goes-89-decade.html#ixzz2FpDtfLKX

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14. Frank said... on Dec 23, 2012 at 09:51AM

“You're right. The NRA has won another convert here. That Sarah Brady is a bitch for complaining that her husband got shot. It's not like he was POTUS or anything. Sheesh.”

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15. Frank said... on Dec 26, 2012 at 03:52PM

“She sure is. We need you to volunteer to take an assault rifle into her grandson's school and protect him, what with your extensive training and all. And be sure to shoot first and ask questions later.”


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