It’s hard to think about what Jovan Belcher may have been thinking early Saturday morning when he shot his girlfriend at his home (in front of his mother, no less). In the past two days he’s been described as laid-back, jovial, hard-working and dedicated. It has even been reported that while he played for the University of Maine he joined the Male Athletes Against Violence Initiative. After shooting Kasandra Perkins, though, he drove to Arrowhead Stadium for Chiefs practice – only to thank his coach and general manager for what they’d done for him and later turn the gun on himself.
As tragic as this is, people can’t simply take in the gravity and mourn what’s happened. It wasn’t even 48 hours before leftists in the media were calling for an end to the "gun culture" in America. Bob Costas spoke of the issue during halftime on the broadcast of the Cowboys/Eagles game, agreeing with a Kansas City writer that "If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." Mike Lupica of the NY Daily News declared that "Murdering this young woman, 22, and then killing himself in front of his coach and his general manager was made easy by a gun, because a gun always makes it easier." It hasn’t even been two days and too many people have pinned this on guns.
Costas quoted KC writer Jason Whitlock, who also wrote, "Our current gun culture simply ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead." While I agree with his remarks that Roger Goodell should have cancelled Sunday’s game in KC, I could not disagree more with one of his final statements: "Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it."
Here again, we see the phenomenon of those in a position of high visibility using a senseless tragedy to try to push an agenda. Rather than take a deeper look at society’s problems, they are quick to blame the gun. It’s easier that way because we don’t have to look at ourselves or ask what really does need to be changed – and how we got here in the first place. Blaming the gun absolves us of having to do or say anything that really might make a few heavy-hitters remarkably uncomfortable.
Sorry, Mr. Whitlock. It’s not the "gun culture" that drives young men to pull out the gats and start spraying rival gang members with bullets. "That gun was just irresistable, it made me feel like a man!" said no murderer, ever. I’ve been a corrections officer, and I know exactly what the problem with our culture is – but you don’t want to hear it. That’s why you’re so quick to blame a culture that really doesn’t exist in your quest for an answer.
When I was a kid, rap was just coming into the mainstream. Back in the 80′s, rap wasn’t nearly as violent as it is now. It wasn’t exactly peacenik music, but rap took an extremely dark turn in the 90′s when Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls (among others) came onto the scene. Suddenly, we had a new brand of "music" (if you could call it that) that glorified gang membership, selling drugs to get rich, flaunting illegally-gotten gain and being extremely violent. It carried the objectification of women to an entirely new level, even glorifying rape. Shakur was killed in 1996, but as of last year has sold 75 million albums. The man had the words "thug life" tattooed across his abdomen. Snoop Doggy Dog has sold more than 30 million albums to date. He’s a declared member of the Crips, was in and out of prison before making it big. As a convicted felon, he’s barred by federal law from owning a handgun but has been very proud in flaunting the fact that he has guns and has been arrested on multiple weapons violations. Dr. Dre founded Death Row Records, has sold tens of millions of albums and has launched the careers of some of the biggest names in rap, including Snoop, 50 Cent, Eminem and The Game. I won’t even bother trying to quote rap lyrics because most of it would be blurred out and the editors would still need me to apologize.
Video games are also vastly different than when I was a kid. I had Pong and Frogger when I was little, followed by Super Mario Bros. and Kid Icarus as a teenager. Nowadays? We have the Grand Theft Auto series, a wildly popular game that has the player building a criminal empire from knee-breaker to high-roller – usually while getting revenge on another double-crossing bad guy. That series alone has sold 114 million copies across five versions.
Does anyone really still labor under the delusion that guns, and not pop culture itself, are to blame for the rise in violent tendencies? I started off in juvenile corrections. If they hadn’t taught us the statistics of youth involved in crime in the academy, we certainly would have learned the common denominators while walking the beat – the overwhelming majority of kids who have been adjudicated as delinquent and sentenced to real time come from single-parent homes, and those that knew both of their parents had one (usually their father) who was a convicted felon. Most of them were woefully undereducated; in fact, I lost track of how many were completely illiterate. They couldn’t have told you the difference between a noun and a verb, but they could have excused their glorification of the thug life so eloquently that they could almost make a believer out of you.
We were once a society that frowned upon having a child out of wedlock. Now we’re seeing astronomical rates of illegitimacy coupled with rapidly dwindling interest in education (and when someone tries to say, "hey, I made a mistake, don’t do what I did," they’re derided by the press – Bristol Palin comes to mind). Whereas education was once important to America, we’re now at the bottom of the global pile and we’re trying to defend the educational system that has been an abysmal failure since my childhood. We have so-called experts telling teachers not to grade with red ink and teachers who don’t believe in homework or giving a student a failing grade because it’s too negative – then we expect these ill-prepared children who have no idea how to grow up to go out into the world and make something of themselves. All of this while they listen to violent music, play violent games, and glorify the lives of hardened criminals who get featured on VH1 for writing music while in prison. Discipline has all but gone the way of the dinosaur as liberals have managed to blur the lines between discipline and abuse. All of this in the name of self-expression – a purely emotional concept that teaches extremes that children should be learning to control, not vent.
I don’t believe for an instant that Jovan Belcher was violent. I think he may have had head injuries common to NFL players that contributed to his tragic end. Let’s not kid ourselves, though – all of these people now claiming that the ease with which he obtained his gun and the supposed gun-loving culture we live in made this happen are deluding themselves. Rather than look inward to see what we could change, they’d rather find another culprit so they don’t have to question all of their other beliefs about life and society. It’s unfair to the families of Belcher and Perkins to shift that blame. It’s tragic for future generations that we’re not willing to be honest.