NBC sportscaster Bob Costas used the Sunday Night Football halftime show to make a pitch for gun control. It was a rare event in sports television, where talking heads aren't supposed to begin a discourse in which the destination is unknown. And this destination turned out to be quite unusual.
Costas's commentary followed the murder-suicide by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot Kasandra Perkins, the mother of his infant child, on Saturday morning before driving to the Chiefs' practice facility and shooting himself in the head in front of the team's coach and general manager.
After mocking the reliance on cliché and the inevitable calls for "perspective" such tragedies produce, Costas quoted from this column by Jason Whitlock:
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 Kassandra Perkins would both be alive today. . . . 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.
Costas's unexpected remarks had the weight of a cultural moment. And so they are, albeit for two conflicting reasons. First, the fact that he made them at all. Costas surely knew the consequences would include the ire of gun enthusiasts and the gun industry. (The NRA's social media muezzin issued a tweet to the faithful at 7:58 this morning, accompanied by a link to an article in the Daily Caller.)
And second, because by stating the obvious about handguns -- they kill people -- Costas apparently felt more comfortable quoting a third party. We know the NRA believes the Second Amendment is sacred and unbounded. Costas seems to have had somewhat less confidence in the amendment that precedes it.
(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)
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