Athletes and Guns

In late October Hampton University senior basketball player Theo Smalling was accidentally shot in the abdomen outside of a nightclub. After being hospitalized for two days he died of complications from the wound. At that instant he became a statistic in a problem that is growing rapidly in today’s society. It was never really abnormal for athletes to possess firearms in this country, but the trend of athletes misusing guns is becoming a huge problem.

In December of 2009 Washington Wizards’ star Gilbert Arenas was suspended 50 games for having four firearms in the locker room. On top of that he reportedly threatened his teammate, Javaris Crittenton, which spawned Crittenton to pull out his own gun and threaten to shoot Arenas. Arenas will now have to serve 30 days in a halfway house and do 2 years of probation. In November 2008 New York Giants’ wide receiver Plaxico Burress brought an unregistered gun into a New York City night club and accidentally shot himself in the leg. After a year of dealing with court dates and plea bargains he was sentenced to two years in prison for his offense. NFL cornerback Adam “Pac man” Jones who has been implicated in a number of legal infractions is best known for what happened in February of 2007. Jones and a group of friends went to the Minxx Gentleman’s Club and threw over $80,000 worth of money, but started a brawl when the club owner, a promoter and strippers went to pick the money up. The brawl that spilled outside of the club ended in three people being shot and one of the club’s bouncers being permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Although Jones was never charged with a crime, many witnesses said he had a gun in the club that night and because he was involved, NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell suspended Jones for a full season. All three cases have the same ingredients: high profile athlete, lapse in judgment, and misuse of a firearm and they all have similar results.

There have been many reasons cited for why athletes have become more involved with guns. Some blame hip-hop culture for feeding into the stereotypes and some believe that athletes never free themselves of their upbringings. Often times an athlete will site paranoia as a reason for having a weapon. Many of these high profile players feel that they are easy targets for thieves and muggers because of their high salaries. Former NBA star, Stephon Marbury, had a diamond necklace taken from him while parked outside of a Manhattan night club in June 2000. Dr. John Lott Jr., who is the author of, “The Bias Against Guns”, as well as researcher, believes owning a gun increases safety. In fact according to Lott, “players violate the rules are probably doing their teammates a favor because they at least create some uncertainty in criminals’ minds about whether a player can protect himself.”

There are also those who don’t believe there are any excuses for carrying guns, like Paul Helmke, who is the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. In the case of Gilbert Arenas he was very outspoken calling Arenas “reckless” for his actions in the locker room. He and millions of other Americans don’t think that athletes should be carrying guns under any circumstances, but instead should be using their money to pay for bodyguards.

A solution to this problem will probably never be found because guns will never be outlawed in the states. Athletes and regular citizens will still cross multiple state lines to purchase guns for their various reason, whether they be for protection, or to follow a lifestyle they see on television or possibly because that is all they know. Something that may help prevent cases like Theo Smalling’s death or the permanent paralysis of the Las Vegas bouncer would be better decision making from the individuals involved. That would require tougher laws from states that don’t require very much background information for people who buy guns and workshops for people to learn how to properly handle their firearms. It’s 2010 and something has to change or we will continue to see unfortunate cases of dreams being deflated by bullets.

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