Days before he shot to death Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his three-month-old daughter, and then shot himself in the head, Jovan Belcher received a text from a friend suggesting that since he’d fathered a girl, he’d better get a gun.
Belcher texted back that he had “about 8 guns, from hand guns to assault rifles, for her little boyfriends.” The friend no doubt assumed Belcher, who had participated in a course titled “Male Athletes Against Violence” when he was in college, was joking, and perhaps exaggerating.
One of the many people interviewed in the wake of last weekend’s murder/suicide was Tony Dungy, for 12 years a head coach in the NFL, now an analyst. Dungy said that on the teams that he coached, about 75 percent of the players acknowledged that they owned and carried guns.
Perhaps principled and sincere people can argue about whether the current gun laws in this country are sufficient.
Certainly much of the speculation about what should be concluded from the murder committed by Jovan Belcher and his subsequent suicide has been suspect and self-serving, especially the speculation from people with agendas regarding interpretations of the Second Amendment, and analyses offered by professionals unacquainted with Belcher or Kasandra Perkins.
But I think the comments of Tony Dungy bring up a question worth consideration by citizens of various political persuasions in the wake of this most recent episode of mad and deadly violence.
As a nation, we love professional football, despite—or perhaps in part because of—the risks intrinsic to it. We are the only nation of which that can be said. In vast numbers we attend the games and watch them on television and bet on them. We buy the gear associated with the players, many of whom we regard as admirable, even heroic, not only for their achievements on the field, but for lifting themselves out of wretched circumstances by dint of their talent and determination.
And in the wake of the murder of Kasandra Perkins and the suicide of Jovan Belcher, we have learned from a former NFL coach that three quarters of the players with whom he worked had guns. Assuming it’s fair to extrapolate Tony Dungy’s experience to the rest of the NFL, here is the question: What is to be done to address the culture we have created where three quarters of the strongest, fastest, most celebrated men in that culture feel that they must be armed?