Bob Costas backtracks on gun remarks

In the above interview with Dan Patrick, Bob Costas “clarifies” his highly controversial comments from the halftime show of “Sunday Night Football,” when he addressed root causes of the murder/suicide of former Kansas City Chief Jovan Belcher. Here, “clarify” amounts to “waffle.”

In that much-discussed Sunday-night editorial, Costas let it rip:

Those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock, with whom I do not always agree but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article. “Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “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. 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. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, (and its possible connection to football), will be analyzed. Who knows? But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock, “is what I believe, If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”

Two days later, in his interview with Patrick, Costas inventoried excuses. He didn’t have much time to prepare for his op-ed moment. He didn’t have much time in the broadcast to deal with the topic. And so on.

How would he have improved upon the monologue? By imitating a software program, in essence: Costas said he would have offered a menu of options. “If you’re looking for perspective on this, then a discussion should ensue within sports about the football culture, the gun culture, domestic violence — those issues which we don’t have time to address. Those items should be discussed if we’re looking for elusive perspective after an event like this,” Costas explained to Patrick.

My, how boring that would have been.

The most suspect of his post-remarks remarks came when Costas addressed the widespread perception that he was advocating gun control. No, he seemed to say, I was just issuing a warning about the gun culture.

“There is a gun culture in this country. It expresses itself in different ways,” said Costas before offering some examples. Such as the people who “honestly believe that in Aurora, Colo., if only a dozen or so people there to watch the Batman movie had been packing, they would have been able to take down this nut job who showed up in full body armor. … I think any police officer, if you told him that, would roll their eyes, because they know that what would have happened in that situation is just more carnage.”

“Especially among young people, there appears to be too cavalier an attitude about guns,” said Costas.

The NBC star insists that what he intended as a commentary on “gun culture” ended up being interpreted as “some sort of strictly pro-gun control or anti-Second Amendment statement.” Reasonable people shouldn’t grant Costas this distinction. His criticism of U.S. “gun culture” came off pretty clearly as a stalking horse for further gun control. He should simply own that viewpoint, instead of tying us up in interpretive babble.

There’s no question that, as Costas asserts, there is a “gun culture in this country.” Thing is, it’s nearly as varied as American culture itself. Part of the culture consists of people who treat guns in a cavalier manner—the ill that Costas addresses. Another strain of U.S. gun culture is all the enthusiasts who keep guns and comply with every little rule and regulation that the states throw at them.

At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference in February, I ran into one of them. Richard Petrillo, then an undergraduate at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., took an hour of his time to explain to me his misgivings about how the media frames gun owners. That discussion merged into an explanation by Petrillo of all the rules and stipulations with which he complies whenever he carries his firearms across state lines. Implicit in the presentation was Petrillo’s respect for gun laws, many of which he wishes would go away.

Again, here’s hoping that NBC Sports addresses this side of the issue during halftime of next Sunday night’s game.

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