Of course, the lead story in all the New York papers today had nothing to do with the Giants’ victory. The New York Times, hardly known for sensationalism, led its sports page with the following headline: “Burress to Surrender to Authorities.”
That’s because Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress walked into a New York nightclub on Friday night carrying a gun and somehow managed to shoot himself in the leg. News reports indicate he wasn’t licensed to carry the firearm.
At the root of incidents like this is a simple fact: athletes — and many others — own guns not because they feel unsafe, but because they like them. They like owning them and talking about them. When the PGA Tour announced that random drug testing in players’ homes was possible, Frank Lickliter, a long-time tour player — and hothead — responded by saying that drug testers make house calls would be greeted by him — and one of his guns. Most players thought that was a hoot, old Frank would sure show the Tour, shooing drug testers off his property with a gun.
With the owners re-opening the collective bargaining agreement, maybe now is the time to make guns an issue the same way Major League Baseball owners made drug testing an issue in the wake of the embarrassing Congressional hearings on the subject three years ago.
The owners and players should agree that players can’t own handguns. That won’t prevent players who like to hunt from hunting. If a player feels unsafe for any reason, he can ask his team to provide security — all NFL teams have good-sized security forces, most of them retired law enforcement officials — or they can hire their own security guards.
Now, let’s not start screaming about the Second Amendment. To begin with, the amendment should be abolished — a sensible interpretation of the amendment is that it was written to allow the people to raise a militia for protection and to hunt for food. Clearly no one needs to raise a militia these days, and those who hunt for a living can be licensed to do so.
It would be nice if President-elect Obama had the time to focus his energies on repeal of the Second Amendment, but he first has to deal with a broken economy and the incredibly wrong-headed war started by his predecessor. What’s more, the issue of gun rights causes almost as much screaming from the right as abortion rights, the irony being that those yelling the loudest about the right to life are usually those yelling almost as loud about their right to carry weapons that kill.
The Second Amendment isn’t going to be abolished any time soon. That should not prevent the NFL — and all sports leagues — from taking handguns away from their players. It is no more unconstitutional to say players can’t own guns than it is to say they must be subjected to drug testing when there is no evidence they have used drugs, or saying they can be fined for speaking their mind about officiating.
So let’s not use the constitution as an excuse. If the NFL owners are concerned about guns — and they should be — they need to make the union understand why it is important that it be concerned, too. Baseball, basketball and hockey should do the same thing. The leagues need to do something about their players and their guns.