In the vigorous debate over guns sparked by the murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend, Charles Barkley and James Harrison have spoken out in favor of responsible ownership. On the other side, John McEnroe’s views are more aligned with those of Bob Costas.
“I think, especially in the black culture, it’s a crime culture,” Barkley said in tonight’s episode of “Costas Tonight” on the NBC Sports Network. “We, as black people, and I always say we, we don’t have respect for each other. We got more black men in prison than we do in college, and crime in our neighborhoods is running rampant. I know everybody reacts when something like the Belcher thing happens, but being black, this is something you deal with all the time, and it’s just sad. I’m a guy and I carry a gun. I carry a gun.”
Barkley, who will turn 50 in February, said he has carried a gun for about 30 years and has never used it.
“I carried a gun in my car, every year of my life since I was 20 — never had to use it,” he said. “I just feel safer with it because we have jocks who get robbed all the time, road rage and things like that. I feel a sense of peace when I have it with me, but it would take extreme circumstances for me to even touch it.”
The Belcher issue, for Barkley, is domestic violence. Belcher shot and killed his fiancee, then headed to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed suicide.
“I hope people don’t [emphasize] the gun situation. I’m very sensitive to domestic violence because I have a daughter [who is 23 and that's just one thing that I cannot accept in any shape or form whatsoever. It's just a crazy situation.
"I don't get into the gun stuff. Some guys have guns who go hunting. Where do we stop [gun control] at? I’m not a hunter, but we can’t say people can’t have guns. … Let’s not make this thing about guns. Let’s make this about mistreating women. That’s unacceptable.”
John McEnroe, a lifelong New Yorker, feels safer without a gun. “I’ve got to say I think that there are just so many bad things that could happen. That’s why someone like Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg in New York City, where I live, has advocated, I think rightly so, that we get as many guns as possible off the streets,” McEnroe said. “There are too many scenarios…that would make it that much easier to pick up a gun and do something.”
Last year, Harrison posed with some of the guns from his collection for a Men’s Journal story. He takes Barkley’s point that the issue is larger than firearms ownership.
“It’s a big issue as far as what happened and everything, it’s a sad story,” Harrison told USA Today. “But the fact of it being part of the guns … “They want to say its guns and all this other stuff. It’s ridiculous. He did it. And he alone is responsible for it. It has nothing to do with the guns.
“Somebody goes out and kills somebody with a knife, you going to blame the knife? Somebody goes out and kills somebody by pushing somebody in front of a train, you going to start cutting off the guy’s arms? You going to start blaming people’s arms now? It’s the person who did it who is responsible.”
Harrison, 34, got his first gun when he was 18. “It’s not an athlete thing,” he said, “it’s a human thing. …
“If you go and say, ‘All right, now we’re going to take guns away from everybody, and the only person who is going to have guns are the police … if that was a good thing and that’s actually how it would go, then that would work.
“But the two people who are going to have the guns then are the police and the criminals. So now I know I can break into every house in the country that doesn’t have a gun in it because they’re no longer allowed to carry handguns. That’s not going to solve things. It’s only going to cause more problems.”
The NFL and NFL Players Association have sought to educate players about gun safety. In the winter edition of “The Huddle,” published by the NFLPA, a two-day course on “firearms safety and responsible handgun ownership” was offered “in training partnership” with Sig Sauer Academy. The courses, held april 3-4 and April 30-May 1, offered instruction in safety, handgun familiarization and orientation, marksmanship, ammunition selection, maintenance and home safety, amont other things.
More on the Belcher tragedy