Dec 04

Perspective, Not Gun Control, Is What Is Missing Here

I live in Washington, DC. And although the crime rates have come down slowly over the last few years, there is a reality in living in a city like DC… people sometimes are violent to others, and often wind up killing another human being. Sometimes during crime, sometimes during arguments, sometimes out of a false sense of loyalty or respect in the streets for a color on a rag… but inevitably, someone’s life is cut short.

I say that not to explain it away, or minimize the traumatic effect of hearing about a loss of life.. I say it to put my following thoughts into some kind of context.

Killings, murders.. these things occur. They occur each and every day. Innocents are lost in a minute. Worlds are shaken.

So on Saturday when word began to come out in social media about the senseless murder of a young woman, Kasandra M. Perkins, in Kansas City, MO… at first this news came as a minor shock. Sadly, this happens. Sadly, it happens with regularity.

Then the story continued – it was perpetrated by the woman’s boyfriend… an NFL player for the Kansas City Chiefs, linebacker Jovan Belcher. A professional athlete, with what many would consider an amazing life of money, thrills, and happiness. Then it was said that he, the murderer of his girlfriend and mother to his 3-month old child, turned the gun on himself and died.

Now, the story became a full-on front page and lead story across the country. Newscasts, social media, newscasters, and sports reporters all began to enter the fray and talk about this shock and terrible tragedy that had befallen this young woman… and the sports world.

Then, on Sunday night during halftime of NBC’s Sunday Night Football national broadcast… legendary broadcaster (and Syracuse University alum) Bob Costas took the mic. This is what he said.

And it seems like everyone had an opinion on the “rant” given by Costas about gun control. Except for one small, tiny point…

Bob Costas didn’t talk about gun control. Not once. Never did he suggest a “ban” on anything. Nothing. (go ahead, go back and click the link now and listen to it again. I’ll wait here.)

See? What Bob was doing was: (1) quoting from the columnist Jason Whitlock and his op-ed on Saturday night; and (2) suggesting, as Whitlock wrote, that ” our current gun culture” is what needs examining.

Nowhere is Costas claiming a ban on guns. Not a moment of an infringement of 2nd Amendment Rights (no matter how you come down on what that exactly means). Nothing, but just a thought to stop and think about this awful tragedy with a more cultural lens.

Now, for some context. I come from a family of hunters. My better half’s family, born and raised in south and central Pennsylvania, have even more hunters and gun enthusiasts in their flock.  I’m no fan of the NRA and its political tactics, but I am also not a complete “ban all things that go boom” kind of guy.

But as I mentioned, I also live in Washington, DC. Through my city, as well as some of my past work experiences within the District of Columbia, I have seen this “current gun culture” that Costas and Whitlock were talking about.

What they are talking about is a setting. Atmosphere. Community. Social-economic levels. Poverty.  Many kids live in underserved communities. Poverty-ravaged areas where the most successful person you might see could very well be a drug dealer. He’s got money, he has a car, he has respect.. more than most in typical underserved communities. And what happens when these conditions are set?

A current gun culture.

Everyone is armed. For protection. For respect. For nothing resembling responsible gun ownership and usage.  For ALL the wrong reasons.

Now, combine these two worlds: the world of the underserved community and the world of professional athletes and sports teams. Is there a connection? Yes. Many of these professional athletes (not all, but many) come from these kinds of communities. These communities where having a gun is no less normal than many of us look at owning a bike, or owning a computer would appear.

So you bring a person from one setting to another, but the culture – what kept, protected, nourished, supported, and taught him all his really knows and is – is maintained.

Friends, and now fellow professional colleagues from similar situations, all coming into this new world of sports, money, posses, groupies, fans, and shady businessmen, begin to circle.  Protection, like before in the neighborhoods of youth, seems to be needed. And without strong guidance or proper perspective STILL… guns are maintained… and accepted as “normal.”

Then… life happens. Complications, issues, domestic struggles, pressures, business decisions… all things that we face to certain degrees… increase and build up.  I do not know what caused the tragedy that befell this young woman, Kasandra M. Perkins, or what made Jovan take his own life… but I do know that these pressures, whatever they were, are real and are in need of help and support.

Jovan chose this terrible action. And he chose it with a gun.

Mr. Costas now feels compelled, due to some of the backlash and criticism he is facing, to backtrack a bit from his words on Sunday night. He is now talking about “clarifying” or that is was partially a “mistake” to do what he did.

No, it wasn’t.

The communication problem, like it often is, stems from how the media pivoted from the story of the murder-suicide and moved to the negative backlash of what Costas alleged to have said… and of course they got that wrong (see above with the whole “Costas said Gun Control” thing).

Costas is doing what we hope journalists sometimes latch back onto from those days of Murrow, Cronkite, and Woodward… a thinking piece to not make a seriously awful situation good for ratings… but to make us all look at something so tragic and ask “is there something in our communities that perpetuates this kind of tragedy as something far too often seen?”

We NEED to think about this “current gun culture” and how it perpetuates what young men and women look at as conflict resolution, intent, reactions, or other parts of our pressure-filled lives, no matter what your bankroll or profession might be.

I personally think guns are not the problem here.. but I also think we need to have real gun regulation reform, as I still have not heard a cogent, tangible argument as to why semi-automatic and automatic gun control somehow leads to a “slippery slope” on recreational guns, hunting guns, or sporting guns (please spare me with the “once some are taken, ALL will be taken” junk… it’s sloppy and convenient in its simplicity; but isn’t explaining a thing. You can have a car, but you can’t have a indy car on the road, no matter if you own it legally or not – there’s rules and bans in place for the better of the social contract and safety of us collectively.) No AK-47 has ever been justified to me in the hands of “some guy” just because a gun is a right… it’s insulting. And I still haven’t seen a Kevlar -protected Bambi bouncing around a forest in my lifetime.

We are products of our setting. Where we live, our connection to family, our access to quality education, our closeness to healthy and nutritious food.. these factors within our world – our immediate moment – make us who we are.  At times like this, let’s look at the issues, not at the bright and shiny, sports-talk-radio, pundit-heavy info-tainment culture of “what’s controversial?”

So that the next time a person takes another person’s life, we don’t say as Costas correctly exasperated and  shuddered, “Something like this, really puts it all in perspective” ….

It’s time to really put this into perspective NOW. I’d rather not wait for the next tragedy to say this same tired… and lacking any activation… empty phrase.


Note: If interested, listen to Bob Costas on The Jason Whitlock Podcast, where they talk about this controversy on Monday evening after Costas’ halftime essay… the podcast is here.

2 pings

  1. We MUST Be Better Than This (Remember Newtown) » Doug Knight

    […] I have mentioned before in previous blogs, I come from a place with hunting and gun ownership. Many in my family, and especially in my better […]

  2. Gun Control? Community Safety? Whatever It’s Called, Keep It a Debate not Soundbites » Doug Knight

    […] have mentioned a few times in other blog posts that I have what I hope to be a pragmatic and practical view on this. Something that isn’t […]

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