The most recent profile in courage belongs to Bob Costas of NBC Sports. All hell broke loose after Costas editorialized during halftime of last Sunday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Costas' remarks were prompted by the murder-suicide that involved the KC Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher (suicide), and the prior murder of his girlfriend and the mother of their baby, Kasandra Perkins. Costas opined that if a gun wasn't in the Belcher-Perkins home, both people would still be alive. Shazam! The gun-nut universe erupted. How dare Costas besmirch Sunday Night Football with anti-gun commentary? This blog hates all gun-nuts and this blogger is sorry that there aren't more of the bastards/bitches. In the aftermath of the tragedy on December 1, 2012, we learned that Belcher kept a loaded pistol on the kitchen table and an a loaded assault rifle in the den. If this is (fair & balanced) hoplophobia, so be it.
[x NY Fishwrap]
The Great Gun Gag
By Timothy Egan
Tag Cloud of the following article
On national television, you can talk about the sordid details of your sex life, the depth of your religious piety or your belief that an organization that no longer exists, Acorn, stole the 2012 presidential election — a fantasy held by half of Republicans. You can call climate change a hoax, you can say the moon landing never happened, you can even praise Alex Rodriguez, though you shouldn’t.
But you cannot talk about the 300 million or more guns circulating in private hands in the United States. The most armed society in the world, ranked first among 179 nations in the rate of gun ownership, had 9,146 gun homicides in 2009. The same year, Canada had 173. But don’t bring that up.
In Florida, it was against the law — until the law was blocked by a federal judge last summer — for hospital doctors to even ask about firearms ownership of victims, even though gunshot wounds account for 1 in 25 emergency room visits.
Conservatives complain about anti-free-speech vigilantes who keep incendiary voices of the right from being heard on college campuses, and they have a valid point. But some of these same First Amendment defenders are the first to smother any talk about the American weapons culture. The gun gag rules.
The latest public figure to face the shame shower is Bob Costas, the sports broadcaster who occasionally steps outside the chalk lines of the games he covers. Last Sunday, a day in late autumn devoted as usual to the lucrative violence of professional football, Costas spoke about a more tragic kind of violence. In passing on the words of a local writer, he wondered whether the Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend might still be alive had guns not been so readily available. Belcher, who kept a handgun on the kitchen table and an assault rifle in the den, shot Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their infant child, and then himself last weekend.
Costas made his brief remarks at halftime of the Sunday night game. Within minutes, the censors went after him. Top Republicans called for his resignation. Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin, who are to reasoned argument what salt is to a slug, condemned him. And Herman Cain, the pizza guy who at one point led the Republican presidential primary field in the polls, passed on this tweet: “Excuse me, Bob Costas, but you are an idiot, so shut up.”
Those last two words pretty much define the current climate regarding debate about guns and violence. In this country, it is the issue that dare not speak its name.
Costas said later he had nothing against the Second Amendment. But our gun culture more often than not leads to tragedy, he noted. In this, he was stating a fact, not an opinion. “Give me one example of an athlete — and I know it’s happened in society — but give me one example of a professional athlete who by virtue of having a gun took a dangerous situation and turned it around for the better,” he said.
My sentiments are with Costas. I’ve lost friends and family members to gun violence. Still, I have nothing against people exercising their Second Amendment rights. Adults can have all the guns they want, but please — they should understand that their arsenal makes them less safe.
People with guns in the home are at a far greater risk of dying of homicide than those without, the American Journal of Epidemiology reported in 2004. For men, the likelihood of death by suicide is much higher if a gun is nearby. And 90 percent of suicide attempts by gun are successful; for willful drug overdoses, the rate is only 2 percent.
Understandably, people buy guns for self-defense. But a gun in the home is 12 times more likely to result in the death of a household member, or a visitor, than an intruder, a 2010 study by the Southern Medical Journal the official journal of the Southern Medical Association found.
For all those grim numbers, the United States is not the most violent society. Drug oligarchies and broken tribal nations are much more lethal places to live. But among the 23 wealthiest countries, the United States is easily the bloodiest: homicide gun rates are 19.5 times higher here than in other high-income countries, Politifact reported.
Going into a theater or a mall in America can be a risky thing, as recent mass shootings have shown. I just returned from Idaho, where people are buying guns at a record clip because of the delusional fear that President Obama is going to take them away. The safest place in Idaho, by far, is just inside the security line at the Boise airport, where a big sign warns people that they will soon be entering a mandatory gun-free zone.
How these basic truths came to be treated as unmentionables is a tribute to the gun lobby’s power to strangle debate on even simple safety questions. At the same time, they have all but shut down public health research into gun violence.
For the politicians and pundits who do the gun industry’s bidding, the First Amendment does not apply to the Second Amendment. It took a sportscaster, accustomed to parsing the nuances of a stunt blitz, to break the code of shameful silence. Ω
[Timothy Egan writes "Outposts," a column at the NY Fishwrap online. Egan — winner of both a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 as a member of a team of reporters who wrote the series "How Race Is Lived in America" and a National Book Award (The Worst Hard Time in 2006) — graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in journalism, and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Whitman College in 2000 for his environmental writings. Egan's most recent book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America (2009).]
Copyright © 2012 The New York Times Company
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