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December 4, 2012

The threat to football

There's a reason that halftime of NFL broadcasts is usually reserved for game analysis and highlights, rather than social science. NBC announcer Bob Costas showed why with a little sermonette during the recent Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys game.

Just a day earlier, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to the Chiefs' practice facility and shooting and killing himself in front of the team's head coach and general manager.

During halftime of "Football Night in America," which is not to be confused with "Monday Night Football" or "Thursday Night Football," Costas referred to Belcher's shocking murder-suicide as "nearly unfathomable." He then proceeded to fathom it in terms of a cliched gun-control fable. Costas quoted approvingly sportswriter Jason Whitlock's argument that "our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy."

Costas is an extraordinary and justly acclaimed broadcaster, who apparently hasn't spared a moment's reflection to the long-running argument over guns in our society. If he had, he wouldn't have treated such tripe as priceless words of wisdom.

A Gallup survey last year found that 47 percent of adults have a gun in their home or on their property, the highest figure since 1993. Yet, as of 2005, the number of intimate homicides had steadily declined since 1993, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Overall, domestic violence has dropped by more than 60 percent since 1993.

That is not to deny that the presence of a gun makes a violent relationship much more dangerous. But what set of laws could possibly deny a gun to Jovan Belcher, who had no criminal record and was touted as a model NFL player, without denying them to the vast majority of gun owners who will never do harm to anyone? It is already illegal for someone convicted of domestic violence to own a firearm.

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