Bob Franken

King Features Column

(Usual preface: This is a week old column, delayed after its newspaper release because the syndicator says so)

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Those of you who believe you should be able to “pack heat” or whatever expression people use to describe carrying a deadly weapon are about to get really heated up by what comes next: Bravo Bob Costas. Congratulations for using your forum on NBC’s Sunday night “Football in America” broadcast and having the courage to be direct about the nation’s “gun culture” when commenting on the tragic murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins.
For the record, all that Bob stated was the obvious, that “If he didn’t possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra would be alive today.” But that was enough to cause apoplexy among those who believe in a somehow-sacred right to possess their instruments of death.
The right wing has gone ballistic. On Fox News, host Brian Kilmeade angrily wondered whether it was “appropriate for Costas to make his remarks,” or whether he abused his position by taking advantage of a TV platform that amplifies his individual opinion to the point that it reached 20 million people. In other words, he should keep his points of view about everything but football to himself.
Actually, it’s a valid argument. Why should we care what a celebrity thinks other than being surprised that he or she really thinks? Why should those who are nonbelievers be forced to watch Tim Tebow and so many other athletes demonstrate their religious fervor each and every time they score a touchdown or hit a home run? Why should we really care which stars supported Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, or which ones come to Washington to testify before Congress about their favorite cause?
But we do care about what they have to say, and if that’s the case, Costas was entirely appropriate when he took a stand. How pathetic it is that our political leaders, among them President Obama, are so timid in the face of the gun lobby, kowtowing to those who have made America’s love affair with guns a murderous obsession.
How insane it is when mass murders in schools and colleges, movie theaters, houses of worship, you name it, are regular occurrences. How can we justify the ease with which a mentally ill person can get weapons and ammunition to gun down a congresswoman and those who came to meet with her? How could the question of whether disturbed veterans should be monitored for what’s in their arsenal even be worthy of debate, as it is right now in Washington? How can we accept the fatalities that come when someone who is panicking ends the life of an unarmed teenager because craven or opportunistic legislators passed a “Stand Your Ground” law? And how can we accept as routine the thousands of accidental gun deaths which bring a domestic dispute to an unspeakably tragic end,like the Belcher case, minus the publicity?
And yet Obama and others who might stand for common sense wither under the heat of such an incendiary issue and the NRA, lest they lose some votes. It is amoral expedience, plain and simple.

Yes, the Supremes have ruled that the Constitution’s Second Amendment grants the right for all of us to “keep and bear arms,” but the majority of the justices probably got it wrong. And if they didn’t, then our Founding Fathers did, or at least it’s wrong now.
Among the more reasonable voices — and I never thought I’d say this — is Bill O’Reilly. Commenting on the Costas uproar, O’Reilly declared: “There should be mandatory prison time for any person accused of having a gun illegally.”
But O’Reilly went on to say, “You cannot disarm the entire American population to combat madness.” This is where you gun people will go bananas, because my question is, “Why not?”

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