NFL Murder-Suicide Is Latest Wake-Up Call to Address Gun Violence

FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher (59) walks off the field during the thi
FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2010, file photo, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher (59) walks off the field during the third quarter of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. Police say Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend early Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo., then drove to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

This past weekend, in a domestic disturbance that went horribly awry when a gun entered the mix, a man shot and killed his girlfriend, then, hours later, killed himself. That everyday occurrence would not have made national news -- except that the man was an NFL player, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. The girlfriend he apparently murdered was Kasandra Perkins.

There is an epidemic of gun violence in the sports world.

Athletes at every level of competition have been wounded, killed, lost loved ones, or otherwise been victimized by guns -- or have had their lives changed forever by turning to guns themselves.

The list includes many who reached the pinnacle of their sports: Boxing champion Hector "Macho" Camacho, National Football League MVP Steve McNair, National Basketball League MVP Michael Jordan, Major League Baseball Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia, Grand Slam tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams, Tour de France bicycling champion Greg LeMond, Olympic gold medal wrestler Dave Schultz, NFL All-Pro Sean Taylor, MLB Manager Dallas Green, and many others.

Each was touched by gun violence.

Yet the fact that guns killed Michael Jordan's father, Serena and Venus Williams' sister, and Dallas Green's 9-year-old granddaughter had nothing to do with their ties to the sports world. They lost their lives because they lived in a country with more than 200 million guns, where inadequate laws make it far too easy for dangerous people to acquire the means to kill. In one decade in America, from 1996 to 2005, there were almost 5 million violent crimes committed with firearms and more than 2 million crime guns seized and traced by law enforcement.

The epidemic of gun violence in the sports world is simply reflective of the epidemic of gun violence in the United States.

How guns have affected the sports world, and how that problem is reflective of our nation's gun violence epidemic, is examined in a Brady Center report, originally released July 2, 2012, titled, Guns In Sports: How Guns Have Affected the Athletic Community & What It Tells Us About America's Gun Violence Crisis. As the report makes clear, these sports figures may inspire our attention because of their prominence, but their stories resemble those of countless Americans whose athletic careers are limited to recreational leagues or backyard games of catch.

While this weekend's tragedy made headlines because it involved an NFL player, this kind of gun violence happens in our nation every single day.

It is the responsibility of all of us, professional athletes and retired Little Leaguers, gun owners and non-gun owners alike, to come together in an honest conversation about what can be done to prevent future gun deaths and injuries.

We should join people like longtime sportscaster Bob Costas and sportswriter Jason Whitlock, who this weekend spoke and wrote passionately about the lethal mix of guns and domestic violence exemplified by the Belcher-Perkins tragedy.

This isn't about the Second Amendment rights of responsible law-abiding citizens to own guns. This is about the safety of all Americans. This is about all of us coming together to say "We Are Better Than This" with the single-minded goal of making this the better, safer nation we all want and deserve.

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