Bob Costas' NFL Gun Speech Deconstructed
December 3, 2012
By R. Tamara de Silva
"This year will go down in history. For the first time, a civilised nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future!"
"Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest."
Mahatma Mohandas K. Gandhi
Bob Costas used the incident of Kansas City Chief's Linebacker, Jovan Belcher's murder of the mother of his three-month-old daughter on Saturday before taking his own life as call for more gun control. In Chicago, eight people also died from gun violence over the weekend.
The causes of murder and suicide, especially inner-city violence are numerous and complex. The causes of gang related shootings involve suboptimal societal and economic factors that have no easy remedy. What is predictable and easy, is to blame the guns used either by a low-life gang-banger or a cold-blooded murderous NFL linebacker. It is easier than blaming the parents of the murderer, his family, teachers, pastor, genetics, mental illness, economic factors, cultural influences, randomness or societal failure in raising yet another psychopathic killer. As is often the norm, whatever the premeditation, mental illness or depravity of the murderer, we shift our blame towards the object used by the murderer-the gun. It happens after almost every publicized shooting, and with a high degree of predictability. Politicians clamor, as they do in Cook County, to abridge the plain language and intent of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, to appear like they are "doing something" and to ostensibly express their profound empathy for the victims of murderers by imposing yet more regulations on gun ownership and taxes.
True to the playbook, yesterday, NBC's ubiquitous sports commentator Bob Costas used the half-time segment of the Sunday Night Football to call for more gun control, "In the coming days, Jovan Belcher's actions and their 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." Or he would have found another way to kill her...but this would not have been newsworthy. Blaming an inanimate object also subtly removes a layer of culpability and provides an easier answer, as if the problem of the existence of the murderer and his intent would be erased just as particles in Heisenberg's uncertainty principle appear and then disappear on the quantum scale- in this instance somehow leaving the presence of the more culpable gun.
According to a report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, guns were involved in roughly over 65% of violent crimes in 2008. There are in the aggregate of all municipal, state and federal gun regulations, well over 14,000 to 19,000 gun regulations on the books. Gun ownership is well regulated. The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world but is 28th in the world in the rate of murders committed by firearms. Most people that own guns never commit gun violence. Do all these regulations have the effect of reducing deaths by gun?
In Illinois, the answer would be resoundingly in the negative. Illinois is arguably the most gun restrictive state in terms of the sheer number and nature of its gun regulations. Chicago is also, in 2012, on track to being the nation's murder capital. Do we have too few gun regulations or too many murderous criminals?
There is an unwritten law in politics at any level, if you are going to bring up a problem, pretend you can solve it-certainly at least say you know how. There is no profit for any candidate running for elective office in Chicago or anywhere else to simply say that we have too many really nasty unsocial people in Cook County and that they will kill you and there is almost nothing, short of moving and trying to avoid these people, that would save you from them and their unsocial behaviors, in all their possible iterations. In order to win tell Logic: drop dead. Blame the gun.
Costas could have blamed Blecher and the fact that athletic ability is prized more than character or psychopathic temperament in the NFL but then again he is hosting an NFL half-time show and this may have been tantamount to going to a dinner party and denigrating all the food. He could have said that if you are one of the statistically improbably gifted athletes that can play at the level of the NFL, and attract the sponsorship revenue of a prime-time NFL game, when you murder your daughter's mother, someone will offer to blame the gun you used.
However, there are problems with the "but for" theory of gun accountability. Its principal problem is a failure of its logic. We cannot blame knives and forks for the epidemic of obesity that caused the greatest toll on our health care system or can we? But for, the knife, a 300 lb, 5"10 man would not have eaten so much because he would have lacked the means to eat so much macaroni and cheese. But for the glass manufacturer, some would never have become alcoholics and destroyed their families. But for cars, we would be perfectly protected from DUIs. But for cars, we would also be unable to have traffic accidents. But for the sale of paint, we would not have graffiti. But for the Internet, we would not have online pornography. When you think upon it, inanimate objects, were you to suspend logic, are pretty nasty social actors-albeit in varying degrees of accompanying passivity.
Statism v. Individual Responsibility
The Government can and does legislate desirable social behavior already-often using inanimate objects. For example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned the sale of super big sugary soft drinks like super-sized purple Slurpees. He had good reason-they are very sugary and excess sugar causes weight gain, diabetes and associated and resultant health problems.
If the government could rely on you to act rationally at all times, poor Mr. Bloomberg would not have had to bother to make a law to prohibit you from ingesting larger sized Slurpees.
His was not a novel idea. From mortgage deductions to marriage deductions to restrictions on the purchase of guns, the government already tries to engineer what it considers socially more acceptable behavior through the tax code. But the evidence of its efficacy is mixed, at best. For example, Canada does not have a mortgage interest deduction and yet more Canadians own their homes than Americans. Cook County Illinois proposed a gun tax to prevent in part the "illegal use of guns in murders." Murder is already illegal-at the state and federal level. Also, it is not likely, though possible, that gang bangers would be so off-put by having to pay a tax on gun ownership that they would switch to machetes. Were the politicians in Cook County a more thoughtful and upstanding cross-section of the populace than their tendency to commit crime (we do after all have and have had more alderpeople, commissioners, and governors in jail than any other North American city), and take to graft, to engage in bribery and other creative means of "pay for play," to refine the art of nepotism- as they do would suggest they are, (albeit a counterfactual hypothesis)--they would realize that people inclined to murder other people in gangs are simply not going to think about the silly tax that has theoretically been imposed upon them.
The other silent but more massive cost to the governments' various attempts to engineer social behavior either by the tax code or by threat of imprisonment, is that individual freedom and government regulation of social behavior are to a great extent a zero-sum game. The more authority the government aggregates to itself to get into the private lives and lifestyles of its citizens, even to promote "good" and rational individual behavior, the commensurately less choice the citizen has in choosing how to live.
Conceivably, I ought to have a right to be irrational. I may simply prefer pizza to broccoli and may wish to drink single malt scotch everyday over kale juice. My enjoyment value in ingesting French fries everyday may outweigh the utility I place in living to be a skinny octogenarian.
It is not meaningful what opinion a sportscaster has about a right guaranteed by the Second Amendment any more than it matters what Mr. Costas thinks about positron emission tomography's alleged ability to produce an accurate "picture" of the human brain. What is troublesome is that Mr. Costas, like so many politicians who would offer simple solutions to seemingly insolvable problems, is that he has a pulpit to propagate false solutions and impoverished notions.
This comes at a time when all branches of government in America today, more than at any time in its brief history, are determined to assault the Bill of Rights-because your fundamental liberties as an American cannot defend themselves, now is not the time to be silent. My father is a history professor and I learned the value of history early on. But in studying human nature more directly, I also learned that history, whether read or not, will repeat itself.
It was not that long ago that the governments of Nazi Germany, Socialist Russia and Fascist Italy disarmed their citizenry. There was no one to defend themselves, their old, their minorities or their children and neighbors from the atrocities that followed. Were we to utter that the odds of this scenario ever repeating itself were greater than nil, we may be called right-wing extremists or "nuts." Yet just seventy years ago, disarming the people was exactly what the governments had engineered, ostensibly in some cases, for the goal of greater safety and social stability. A trade-off no thinking person ought to acquiescence to ever again. @
R. Tamara de Silva
December 3, 2012R. Tamara de Silva is a trial lawyer and independent trader