Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reason on the No Gun Leagues

Joe Gibbs resigns today as the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. While his reasons are multiple and primarily center on concerns for his family, there is also the undeniable strain of this last season and the home invasion murder of his star player Sean Taylor. Reason Magazine comments on the how the professional leagues are becoming increasing stringent in demanding athletes avoid guns while simultaneously increasing the fame and wealth that makes them targets.

NBA, NFL Go Anti-Gun: Many have asked why Taylor felt it necessary to have a machete nearby, but it's probably worth asking (as his friends and peers in professional sports certainly are), "What if it had been a gun?" Certainly, the outcome may have been different.

Unfortunately, officials in the NFL and the NBA increasingly take a paternalistic attitude toward their athletes. For years, the NFL and the NBA have attempted to distance players from firearms. Some would argue these policies are aimed at a culture that celebrates the criminal use of violent weapons, but the effect is pretty clear: The leagues would rather their players put themselves at risk than protect themselves with guns.

Exacerbating the leagues' willingness to bite on gun control rhetoric is each league's desire to maintain an image. Those in control worry about the way those "streets" and the kill-or-be-killed gang culture can infect their players, some of whom are, literally, only a year or two removed from the streets. The leagues need to sell high-priced tickets to white America. But it's unwise to put the safety of several players at risk in order to protect the leagues' image from the misdeeds of a few. Some players now spend $100,000 a year or more on personal bodyguards, and still don't feel particularly safe.

The leagues also might take note of the uncomfortable history of race and gun control. In a 2005 article for reason, David Kopel looked at some of the ugly realities involved in the roots of gun control in American culture. Since the aftermath of the Civil War, "gun control" has simply been a proxy argument for some as a method for keeping blacks unarmed.

Perhaps it’s a good time to recall The Racist Roots of Gun Control and remember that the push for a disarmed public has always been about authoritarian control over people more than emotional concerns about crime.