Why do professional athletes feel they need to carry firearms?

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Published: December 1, 2008

In the last 5 or so years, professional athletes have had a rash of gun-related problems that have really come to the forefront of sports news coverage. Even our own beloved Hornets are not immune to this issue, as Rasual Butler can attest. Given this weekend’s issues with Plaxico Burress accidently shooting himself in a club, this issue needs to be discussed.

Perhaps its cultural. Perhaps they feel vulnerable in public. Perhaps its our society’s unquenchable thirst for 24-hour news coverage. Why is it that I can’t seem to go an entire week without hearing of a profesional athlete with some kind of gun issue? I really don’t have an easy answer to this, but I feel that this problem runs deeper than most people would think.

Look, I come from middle class white america. I pretty much grew up in a swamp. Yes, I had guns in the house growing up, but my dad and I were into small game hunting. I attended a safety course, and all my family’s weapons were registered. Never in my life have I felt the need to carry a firearm in public (excluding the times right after Hurricane Katrina that is). I have almost no knowledge of the environments in which many of our professional athletes grew up. I also have stayed on the same socio-economic plateau for most of my life, meaning my lifestyle hasn’t changed much.

That being said, I understand that most professional athletes come from destitute situations, especially first-generation pro athletes. I also hear of many of them coming from single-parent households. They go from basically having nothing to having everything. From talking to a few people in the community down here in New Orleans, the overwhelming sense I get is that when you don’t have much to your name, you will do whatever is necessary to protect what little you have. I assume that is a difficult behavior to alter once you aquire more wealth. Still, is carrying an unregistered or concealed firearm the answer, knowing if something were to happen, you would get burned?

I guess the simplest answer would be to tell them they can’t carry weapons, and put it in players’ contracts. Well, good luck enforcing that. Besides, that would never pass as legal because you are taking away their 2nd amendment rights. But, how do we fix this? You’re not just going to take their guns away. Thats unrealistic. If a given pro athlete doesn’t feel safe in public without carrying a firearm, he is going to carry a weapon. Obviously the legality of the situation doesn’t matter to him. If it did, we would not be in this situation to begin with. Much of the responsibility falls on the individual players, but their organizations and sports leagues have to take some responsibility as well. After all, these players are investments to their respective organizations. I know if I made a multi-million dollar investment in a pro player, I’d want to take whatever steps were necessary to protect my investment, and mitigate any risk that may befall that player.

In my opinon, its a complex answer, but it has to start with education. I wonder if players understand local gun laws. Can you carry a concealed weapon in a certain state or community? Can you carry a concealed weapon across state lines? What guns are allowed, and what guns are outlawed? What are the ramifications of carrying an unlicensed firearm? These and many other questions can be answered by local law enforcement, or get the assistant district attorney to do a presentation to the team. Also, offer weapons awareness and safety training, and make it mandatory for those who own or wish to carry firearms. That does two things; on one side, you know which players prefer to carry guns on your respective roster, and secondly, the organization/league can say without a doubt that the player has been trained on gun safety. Another potential answer is to have league, team, or individually hired personal security details. It doesn’t have to be more than two men, but these security details have to be legitimate companies. Let’s face it, most pro athletes are young men. Young men want to go out and do things. They want to hang out with friends, go to clubs, etc., and should be able to do so freely. A security detail would offer them the freedom to go out on the town at their leisure.

I know this doesn’t answer all the issues. These are just some things that I believe the League, teams, or indivual players can do in order to mitigate personal risk and/or avoid being prosecuted. I think we can all agree that this is something that needs to be addressed before we hear a story about a gun accident where someone did a whole lot worse than shooting himself in the leg.

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