Bob Costas, Guns, and the NRA

Photograph by Getty Images

Bob Costas is a great sportscaster—the best, in my opinion—and an intelligent journalist. He does neither himself nor the cause of gun control any favors by indulging in fantasies about an America without guns.

Costas caused a stir when he used his Sunday Night Football halftime soapbox to opine about gun ownership in light of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide. Quoting from an article by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, Costas asserted that if the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker “didn’t possess a gun, he and [his girlfriend] Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.” Belcher shot and killed the mother of his three-month-old daughter on Saturday before driving to Arrowhead Stadium and committing suicide.

Costas’s observation about Belcher’s possessing a firearm brought predictable applause from gun control advocates and equally predictable vitriol from the National Rifle Association. Chris Cox, the NRA’s top lobbyist, focused on this passage from Costas’ oration:

“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.”

The problem with this kind of crude attack on America’s gun culture is that many Americans—tens of millions of law-abiding citizens—have affection for firearms. Whether Bob Costas likes it or not, guns are woven into the fabric of American history and society. (I’ve written a book that explores the topic through the story of the iconic Glock pistol.)

Someone of Bob Costas’s intelligence knows about the role guns play in American ideas about individualism and self-reliance. Which raises the question: What, exactly, was Costas suggesting—that the government ban all guns? Talk about playing into the hands of the NRA!

Kansas City police have said that the handgun Belcher used was legally acquired. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (twice) that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep a handgun in the home—for security, for target practice, for the heck of it. Of course, the ready availability of guns makes murder and suicide easier to accomplish. But those are among the costs of the freedom represented by the Second Amendment. If Costas wants to repeal that constitutional provision and somehow undo 300 years of firearm-fixated culture, he ought to say so. It ain’t likely to happen.

By aiming his understandable sorrow and anger at the firearm in question—and in the process, suggesting that all American gun owners are morally tainted by their attachment to firearms—Costas displayed the self-defeating tendency of politically liberal gun opponents. Simply wishing guns away will accomplish nothing. Condemning gun ownership across the board only strengthens the hand of gun proponents. Liberals have to work harder if they wish to deter deadly domestic violence, street crime, and mass public shootings.

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