Guns In The NFL: At Least 7 Players Have Reportedly Turned In Firearms Since Belcher Tragedy (VIDEO)

In the wake of the tragic Jovan Belcher murder-suicide that occurred earlier this month, several NFL players have reportedly come forward to turn in their personal firearms.

“I’ve been told that in the last seven days, at least seven players around the league have gone to their team’s security officers to turn in the firearms that they possess from their homes,” Sports Illustrated's Peter King said on Sunday’s edition of “Football Night in America,” according to CBS News.

King went on to say that one of those players -- who, like Belcher, had multiple firearms -- told his security officer that "he didn't trust himself with the guns" when he handed them over.

"Please take them away," the NFL player reportedly said.

According to a recent USA Today poll, three out of four NFL players own a gun (compared to the 40 percent to 45 percent of the general population who own firearms).

As Think Progress notes, gun control (and the second amendment) have "again entered the public debate" following the Belcher tragedy, with commentators like NBC sportscaster Bob Costas and CNN host Piers Morgan discussing both the need for stricter gun laws in the United States, as well as the destructive potential of NFL's gun culture.

"[The NFL is] at a crossroads because there's an issue about the fundamental nature of the game. It's so popular and so profitable, but it takes a tremendous toll on many of those who play it. Not just body, but as we're now learning, mind and emotions," Costas said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight" on Monday.

"And it's a legitimate question to ask whether, for some players at least, the toll that the game takes, brain trauma, medications that they may take, enhance performance or deal with pain, all those things. The culture of the league increases the likelihood of abhorrent behavior. It's possible," Costas continued.

Studies show that having a gun in the home increases the chances of homicide two to three times, and gun death rates are seven times higher in states with high household gun ownership rates. The presence of a firearm in the home also increases the risk of homicide for women by five times and two-thirds of women killed with guns each year die in domestic disputes.

On Dec. 1, Belcher, a 25-year-old Kansas City Chiefs player, reportedly shot his girlfriend, the mother of his 3-month-old daughter, before turning the gun on himself.

A week later, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs had been ordered to surrender his arsenal of seven guns, including an AK-47, after his girlfriend accused him of "punching her and dragging her alongside his car with their children inside" earlier this year.

As this 2008 New York Times blog post shows, the NFL's gun culture is not a new phenomenon.

But as some gun control advocates, such as Costas and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, step forward to talk about the league's -- and in turn, the country's -- persistent gun culture, it seems an important debate about gun possession and laws is being raised.

On the other side of the coin, some maintain that guns and the gun culture are not the problem.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive officer for the NRA, told USA Today that guns are not to blame for the Belcher tragedy and NFL players (and their relationship to guns) are not different in any way from the general population.

"It's not a culture of athletes," he said. "It is particular behavior by particular individuals that is no different from the rest of society. We've got to stop making excuses. A murderer is a murderer."

This week, the chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms has also stepped forward to criticize Costas for his comments, saying that the "culture of big money, flashy cars and alcohol that permeates the NFL" cannot be ignored.

"According to FBI crime data," said Alan Gottlieb, according to a press release, "the number of homicides involving firearms has declined over the past several years. Last year, out of 12,664 homicides, firearms were used in about 8,500 of those crimes, and handguns were used in less than half."

"Compare that to more than 10,000 deaths attributed annually to drunk driving," he continued, "yet where is the great discussion about that after Brown's death?"

Gottlieb was referring to Jerry Brown, the Dallas Cowboys practice squad player who was killed in a car accident early Saturday morning. According to WFAA, Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, who was driving the vehicle carrying Brown, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.

Where do you stand on this debate? Tell us in the comments below.