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‘We have to be better’: Saints Coach Sean Payton again calls for tougher gun laws

Saints players take a knee, then stand for the national anthem before a game in London. (Henry Browne/Getty Images)

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton has been here before.

He argued passionately for tighter gun laws after his former defensive end, Will Smith, was shot to death in a traffic incident in April 2016, and the shooting that left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded or injured in Las Vegas earlier this week left him incensed again. Payton pleaded for “#CommonSense” in a tweet and later expanded on his feelings.

“I just think let’s start from this standpoint — the current protocols [sic] is not working, the current system is not working,” Payton told reporters (via, “and the madness is when you go years and years and years, and say, well, and so the current policies and thoughts are flawed.

“Listen, I believe this in my heart, we as a society owe it to our children and, I mean, we have to be better in that way. I’ve made my statements clear after the death of Will Smith, and these things come up, and then you try to draw parallels throughout our world, and look, it’s hard to. It’s hard to find other countries like that. And here we are as educated and smart and forward-thinking as we think we are, and yet it’s broken and it’s obvious. So I’ll leave it at that.”

Payton and the Saints were flying back from London, where they had beaten the Dolphins, when the shootings occurred and he pointed out that his beliefs have only gotten stronger since Smith was shot. Those are beliefs that may not jibe with most Louisiana residents, and he knows that.

“[L]ook, if that pisses people off, that’s tough,” he said.

Payton’s outspokenness doesn’t stop there. He has been vocal in his support of players who try to raise awareness of social injustice and racial suppression during the playing of the national anthem. On Sunday, he and Saints players took a knee before the anthem, then rose and, with arms linked, stood for it.

In April 2016, Payton’s team was stunned by the shooting death of Smith and the wounding of his wife. “If this opinion in Louisiana is super unpopular,” Payton told USA Today at the time, “so be it.”

He pleaded for stricter gun laws, although he admitted he is “not an extreme liberal. I find myself leaning to the right on some issues. But on this issue, I can’t wrap my brain around it.”

Someday, he believes people will look back at the “madness” of these times.

“Two hundred years from now, they’re going to look back and say, ‘What was that madness about?’ ” Payton said in 2016. “The idea that we need them to fend off intruders … people are more apt to draw [guns in other situations, as in the road rage situation that cost Smith his life]. That’s some silly stuff we’re hanging on to.”

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