I was going to let this pass, I swear. There was a lot on my plate, I didn’t really have the time, but this story just got bigger and bigger. Pundits were a-punditing, pontificators pontificating, and the internet memes! So many, many memes… I held off for a few days, though. See, I learned my lesson when I tried to write about the David Patraeus scandal while it was still unfolding. Every time I thought I had a bead on what was happening, new information came out and the details of the story kept changing. I had to edit that damn thing every five minutes.
Therefore, I thought I’d let the dust settle a bit on the l’affaire de Bob Costas, and wait ford the inevitable outrageous outrage, media hand-wringing, and convoluted explanations to die down a bit before I shared my thoughts on the issue.
So yeah, Bob Costas. Jesus, has he been around forever or what? You know, I always thought of the dude as a harmless, relatively dull network television fixture. I grew up with the guy, for chrissakes. I can’t remember a time when his cherubic face wasn’t on my television, whether it was covering football, baseball, or being in terrible, terrible movies.
But now, Costas is taking heat for his commentary on a Monday night football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Upon hearing the news that Kansas City Chiefs player Javon Belcher had murdered his wife, Kassandra Perkins, and then killed himself with a legally purchased and owned handgun, he decided some editorializing about the need for further gun control was necessary during the halftime show.
This wasn’t a second amendment debate. This should have been an open and shut case of domestic violence. Indeed, turning it into a debate about handguns is highly insulting to Perkins, not to mention her mother, who watched her child die in front of her. But, since the killer in question happened to be very good at playing a game involving a ball, it became a Big Media Story, with much pearl-clutching that would never have taken place if the perpetrator wasn’t famous.
Some of Costas’ fellow media members are lauding his speech, calling him brave and daring for “taking a risk.” This is hilarious on its face, as I’m sure 95% of Costas’ colleagues in the media totally agree with his stance on guns. If you don’t think Costas cleared this editorial and had full support of his bosses at NBC, you are a bit of a dullard.
Nice timing, too. I mean, there probably won’t be a lot of 18-34 year old guys who like guns watching a football game in Dallas, Texas. Great job alienating your target audience, NBC. This is the equivalent to Rachel Maddow railing against plastic surgery during a “Real Housewives of Orange County” marathon.
Costas drew largely from an article written by sportswriter Jason Whitlock. Whitlock had concluded that if those darn handguns weren’t so prolific, then Belcher never would have killed anyone. Since Whitlock is one of the few sports journalists to ever say anything remotely interesting, I was a bit dismayed to have him toss in a bit of anti-gun hysteria into an otherwise dead-on article about the NFL’s callousness in making the Chiefs play the game the next day. It was only a couple of paragraphs in a much longer story, but it was the part that Costas paraphrased and obviously agreed with, and therefore worth examining a little closer.
First thing I noticed: Jovan Belcher, a 25 year old professional football player, is called a “kid” by Whitlock. Yes, a 6’2″, 230 lb. NFL linebacker is just a confused little boy, you see? Not a grown-ass man, not responsible for his own horrific actions.Whitlock, Costas and CNN host Piers Morgan completely believe that if it weren’t for guns, Belcher and Perkins would not be dead. To quote Costas on his halftime speech, “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Obviously, this is just simply wild speculation. I’m pretty sure a man large enough to play in the NFL could kill in any number of ways. Costas should know this better than anyone, shouldn’t he? Hell, I could make an equally valid argument that if Perkins had had a gun, she would still be alive.
Then, instead of addressing the facts of a disturbed and violent man, Whitlock decides to turn this into a 2nd amendment conversation. Whitlock absurdly writes, “How many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn’t protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?” Shit, in that case, we should have this pesky little Afghanistan thing wrapped up in a couple of weeks, huh?
Whitlock went on to compound his silliness with an incendiary interview on a television morning show, implying a bizarre conspiracy involving America’s inner cities and the NRA. See, Whitlock knows that the media LOVES when black journalists make incendiary comments about race in America- it’s a sure way to get invited on to the TV show circuit (See Sharpton, Al.) Whitlock stated:
“You know, I did not go as far as I’d like to go because my thoughts on the NRA and America’s gun culture – I believe the NRA is the new KKK. And that the arming of so many black youths, uh, and loading up our community with drugs, and then just having an open shooting gallery, is the work of people who obviously don’t have our best interests [at heart].”
Look, I realize Whitlock is just looking to be the controversial guy here – that’s part of his whole writing schtick. Not to mention, as an African- American, he is looking at the greater racial politics rather than the issue of legal gun ownership.
But let’s engage the argument he’s making while assuming that he actually believes this statement. First, it’s a silly notion. Yeah, the NRA is running around procuring illegal guns and pushing them into the arms of unwilling participants. This implies that the entire black youth population is completely without self-control or restraint, hapless victims who have no say in how they conduct themselves. This is condescension and paternalism at its worst. I know at least one black chick who would put a boot in your ass if you talked about her like that.
So he wants to talk about the racial angle? Fine, let’s do that. Unfortunately, Whitlock, along with the two other African-American panelists, Tom Joyner and Roland Martin (who would rather be talking about what’s wrong with white people, or telling black people to vote solely based on skin color) assigns no personal responsibility or shame. See, it’s far easier to blame the inanimate object than to start uncomfortable discussions about culture and failed municipal policies of America’s more violent cities.
Look at the data: Young black men have a murder rate 10 times that of whites. Half of the homicide victims in the United States are black males, though they make up only approximately 7% of the national population. The leading cause of death for black males 15-34 years old is homicide. Let me be completely blunt: These statistics, and the socio/economic, legal, and cultural issues that have helped lead to the current state of young black males in this country are a national disgrace, and not too many people seem to want to talk about it or how we can fix it. However, that still doesn’t mean I have any intention of giving up my right to self-defense or legally owning firearms because young black men are slaying each other far out of proportion to their percentage of the population.
To assign blame to the NRA, of all organizations, for this gloomy state of affairs is nonsensical, and Whitlock knows better. To his credit, he often discusses controversial issues in frank terms in his columns; issues relating to sports and race that other, white columnists wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. So I’m not trying to pile on the guy too hard. Actually, I think he’s a credit to the profession, but he is dead wrong in this case. Maybe he should have a sit-down with my man Ice-T.
Furthermore, Whitlock should read up on his history and research how guns actually helped American blacks in the south fight off the KKK. As Robert Franklin Williams, a North Carolina NAACP chapter president and former Marine, wrote in his famous 1962 book, “Negroes With Guns”:
“I have asserted the right of Negroes to meet the violence of the Ku Klux Klan by armed self-defense — and have acted on it. It has always been an accepted right of Americans, as the history of our Western states proves, that where the law is unable, or unwilling, to enforce order, the citizens can, and must act in self-defense against lawless violence.”
Whitlock tried to walk back his TV appearance a bit with a follow-up column a couple days later, saying he was tired, of all things, and wasn’t thinking clearly. He re-iterated that his original column had far more to do with the tone-deafness of the NFL than guns, as I recognized. But he still, if one may forgive a pun, stuck to his guns about his feelings towards firearms in general. Which led him to write this gem:
“Guns are toys in America. Guns are a dangerous hobby. Guns are a macho accessory, no different from a shiny sports car.”
Got that? Guns are toys. Not a tool, not a deterrent, and not a savior. Whitlock might want to ask watchmaker Lance Thomas if he considers guns “toys.” You see, Thomas, over a period of three years, was robbed four seperate times by eleven total assailiants. During these robberies, Thomas was wounded twice, taking five total rounds, and managed to kill five of his attackers. Good thing he had those “macho accesories.”
Or how about this 14 year old kid in Phoenix, who had a gun pointed at his face, and fought back? Or this 92 year old World War II vet? This 14 year old kid in North Carolina? Or this 18 year old mom? How about this 66 year old woman? Or this lady in Detroit?
See where I’m going with this? We aren’t all as fortunate as the wealthy, with gated communities, alarm systems, and security. When your home, your sanctuary, is violated by those looking to harm you, it is best to be prepared to act, swiftly, decicsively, and with deadly force, if necessary, to protect yourself and your loved ones. It only takes a quick scan of the news for some extremely grim reminders of what can happen when it goes badly.
The anti-gun crowd often seem to take the view that icky guns are unnecessary because we have the police. Allow me to tell you a hard truth that never gets said out loud: The police rarely prevent crime. They are around to hopefully catch the guys who perpetrate the crime, and lock them up so they won’t do it again. By the time a call is made, (IF it gets made,) the deed is already done. The police come in to draw chalk outlines for the victims and clean the place up.
Costas and Whitlock don’t seem to want to admit that as much as we pretend we are civilized, we still have the savage who walks amongst us. Do you think that triple homicide victim Alina Bukhantsov, her three year old daughter, and two year old son, are resting easier because their killer was caught? Maybe Armod R. Law, his throat slit and shot in the head, is taking comfort somewhere that his killer is going to prison. But they are dead, gone forever, and nothing will ever bring them back. While a gun may not have saved their lives, it may have at least given them a fighting chance.
Yes, more guns lead to more overall gun violence. Just as more automobiles lead to more car wrecks, swimming leads to drownings, and listening to Barbara Boxer speak can cause one to fly into a rage. But that’s part of the deal.
I, for one, am not willing to give up my Constitutional rights because some people choose to misuse those rights. Not to mention there are over 300 million guns in the United States alone; I’d say that the great ship Confiscation has sailed. Besides, the
rednecks hillbillies avid gun collectors would go apeshit.
The second amendment exists to guarantee our right to keep and bear arms to protect us from tyranny. Centuries of case law give us the right to protect ourselves and our property from violent criminals bent on doing mayhem. What happened to Kassandra Perkins is a horrible thing, caused by a horrible man. The tool he used to commit the act is not responsible, Jevon Belcher is responsible.
All of this controversy is clounding the larger isssue: That the mainstream media, due to a combination of political and cultural leanings, is completely ignorant when it comes to guns and gun-related topics. Asking them to understand guns and how they work is difficult enough; asking them to understand the people who use and enjoy guns is nearly impossible.
When Whitlock to say that guns are merely, “a macho accessory,” this conveys to me the sort of gun-owner he has been around, not the gun itself. In the SOF community, guns are not toys or an accessory, they are a tool in the war chest, a tool that many, many serious men have spend their lives mastering. This familiarity leads to respect for the weapon and weapons culture, and leads to ignorance among the chattering classes, many of whom (wild-ass guess here) are never around weapons.
They can’t get even get the most basic facts right, improperly referring to “clips” and solomnly lecturing about “ballistic clothes.” Remember the Colorado theater shooting, where the media breathlessly reported the shooter clad head to toe with “full body armor,” when he was merely wearing a tactical vest? (there is a small possibility he had a soft armor vest underneath, but the case has been sealed by the judge, so the cops aren’t talking. He almost certainly had no ballistic plates.) Of course, none of them know the difference. Hell, Costas himself repeated this crap when he was clarifying his remarks to USA Today:
“There are people who honestly believe that in Aurora (Colo.) if only a dozen or so people there to watch the Batman movie had been packin’, they would have been able to take down the nut job in full body armor with military-type guns. I think any police officer if you told them that would roll their eyes.”
Not only does Costas repeat the false assertion about body armor, he also has the temerity to assign the police as the final arbiters of what is and is not possible for a determined opponent to do with a gun. Bob, the police are hardly the last word when it comes to accuracy. As the old joke goes, there are two things a cop can’t do: drive and shoot. I’ll decide for myself who I can and can’t take down; I don’t need a cop’s opinion, and I certainly don’t need a subject matter expert like you deciding for me. I know I sure as hell would have rather had a gun had I been in that theater.
‘Ol Bob also chucked out this little factoid: According to him, men in their 20’s and 30’s are incapable of owning a gun without something bad happening. Well, shit. Thank God I have Bob Costas, Young Man Expert, to explain to me how stupid and prone to violence I am. I think Costas should just spend some time perusing this website and read about these alleged guns that only cause trouble.
Far be it from me to point out a problem and not offer a solution. Perhaps the background of media members’ isn’t quite diverse enough, for all of their hand-wringing over that particular subject. Is there a single network or cable news anchor or reporter that ever served in a combat arms unit? Is there a single well-known newspaper writer? We are not being served well if we have a media that is so unfamiliar with a very significant part of American culture. The answer? Hire some SOF veterans to fact-check and consult on journalism reports before they get on televsion or the newspaper.
The media has been carrying on for a long time about the need to hire all of these combat veterans who are coming home to a crappy economy. They could take the lead and start hiring these guys as fact-checkers and firearms experts. And I’m not talking about the vast array of retired generals that seem to pop up on television all the time to burnish their credentials; I’m talking about all of those non-commisioned officers who have spent the last decade in the combat arms business.
These men come home to a country where their particular expertise isn’t exactly a hot commodity. Many have difficulty adjusting to the civilian world, feeling lost and ill at ease in a country that is far removed from the conflicts that they have experienced. Why can’t the media start branching out and hire on some of these veterans to bring their knowledge to the newsroom? It would bring a refreshing change of perspective to a TV and newspaper business that is predictably uninformed and uninterested in the men and weapons that have been at war for over a decade. Lord knows, it can’t hurt.