A few days ago, Jovan Belcher, a linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs football team, shot his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, multiple times, killing her. He later drove to his team’s home stadium where he used a second handgun to shoot himself in the head. According to news reports, Belcher owned about eight firearms — all purchased legally. Belcher was 25 years old; Perkins was 22. They had a three month old daughter, Zoey.
Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.
In the coming days, Belcher’s actions will be analyzed through the lens of concussions and head injuries. Who knows? Maybe brain damage triggered his violent overreaction to a fight with his girlfriend. What I believe is, if he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.
Predictably, that 90 second statement sparked an oversized reaction from gun nuts (and yes, if you get angry and alarmed because a sports commentator expresses a 90 second opinion suggesting there’s something wrong with American gun culture, then you’re a gun nut). Costas said nothing about gun control, he said nothing about the Second Amendment. He simply reiterated the point made by Whitlock: the easy availability of handguns does NOT make us safer; it only increases the probability of gun violence. But by expressing an opinion, Costas has been accused of treason, of attacking the Second Amendment, of insulting the American Way of Life.
Much of the criticism of Costas has included a litany of various ways people have been murdered in the US — baseball bats, crossbows, knives, ball peen hammers, spoons, cars, cast iron skillets, etc. This is always followed by the inevitable and profoundly stupid question “Why don’t we outlaw cast iron skillets?” That notion is repeated in this YouTube rejoinder to Costas. The speaker repeats one of the most common and ridiculous arguments against sensible gun control. He says: “To blame a gun for man’s decision is to foolishly attribute free will to an inanimate object.”
The obvious flaw in that argument is the assumption that people are blaming the weapon for the violence. That’s nonsense. The gun isn’t responsible for the violence; the gun does, however, amplify the lethality of the violence. That’s the entire purpose of a gun — to inflict considerable damage and to do it from a distance. If they ever invent a cast iron skillet intentionally designed to inflict lethal damage from a distance, I’ll argue that skillet ought to be regulated too.
It astonishes me that there’s even a debate about this. Handguns facilitate lethal violence. It’s just that simple. Handguns make it easier to kill people spontaneously, to kill more people, to kill them more quickly. To say that isn’t an act of treason. To say that isn’t an assault on the Second Amendment. To say that isn’t an insult to the American Way of Life.
To say that handguns facilitate lethal violence is merely to state a statistically verifiable fact.
Of course, nobody can say with any degree of certainty whether Kasandra Perkins and Jovan Belcher would be alive today if they didn’t live in a house full of guns. What we can say and what we need to say — and we need to say it much more often — is this: having a house full of guns significantly increased the odds that Belcher and Perkins and baby Zoey would die by violence. And that’s a fact.
UPDATE: It’s worth noting that the majority of the discussion about this case — in the media and on the internet — is about guns or about football. Almost nobody is talking about the fact that Kasandra Perkins was murdered.
Here are some more facts: Every day, three women are killed by their husbands, boyfriends, and lovers. More than 90% of the domestic murders in the US are committed by men against women, and 88% of those murders involve a firearm.
Yes, it’s important to examine America’s gun culture, and yes it’s important to investigate the damage (social, emotional and physical) football players suffer. But this was also a crime against a woman, and it’s shameful for us to ignore that.