The issue of gun control isn't a theoretical one to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. In 1984, Kerr's own father, Malcolm Kerr, was killed by two gunmen in Beirut, Lebanon -- the sort of tragedy that no family member ever fully recovers from, only learns to accept.
So, near the end of a podcast taped last week with The Mercury News' Tim Kawakami, Kerr needed to get something off his chest. He was just days removed from losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals in a heartbreaking fashion, sure, but something larger was on his mind: The murder of 49 people inside the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, and the political turmoil since.
What followed from Kerr was an impassioned plea for increased gun control combined with an expression of disgust for the politicians standing in its way. You should listen to Kerr in his own words below around 30:30, but we've also provided a transcription of his comments (emphasis ours):
I don’t often get political, but if you don’t mind, I just want to say that when 90 percent of our country wants background checks on gun purchases, and we’ve got our Senate and our House not only voting it down but using the Bill of Rights as a reason for people to have rights to carry these automatic weapons, and we’re getting people murdered every day at an alarming rate -- these mass [shootings]. I just have to get this off my chest: Our government is insane. We are insane. And what bugs me is this adherence to the right to bear arms, you know. That was back in 1776. People didn’t own automatic rifles. You had to have a musket in case the Redcoats were coming. The British were coming. And the beautiful thing about the Constitution is they left open amendments to change things because things change over time. And I kind of think that our forefathers would not have okayed automatic weapons to be sold to everybody if they existed back then. Let’s have some checks. It’s easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license. It’s insane. And as somebody who’s had a family member shot and killed, it devastates me every time I read about this stuff, like what happened in Orlando, and then it’s even more devastating to see the government just cowing to the NRA and going to this totally outdated Bill of Rights' right to bear arms. If you want to own a musket, fine, you know, but come on. We are -- the rest of the world thinks we’re insane. We are insane. And until we vote these senators and congressmen and women out of office, the same thing’s gonna happen. And it’s infuriating and I had to get that off my chest.
Kerr and Kawakami went on to discuss the subsequent reaction in Washington, D.C., to the mass shooting in Orlando, including a sit-in protest by politicians such as Civil Rights legend John Lewis. Kerr especially took issue with comments made by Republican Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who called the recent protest a "disgrace" to the sit-ins of the 1960s, since, in Walker's view, the former is an attempt to reduce the rights of Americans, while the latter attempted to expand them.
"Think how disgusting that is," Kerr said of Walker's comments. "These were real civil rights [people were fighting for in the 1960s]. We’re really going to say the right to buy an automatic weapon -- actually not even that -- we’re going to call a rule that disallows people on the terrorist list to buy an automatic weapon -- we’re calling those rights?"
"To me, that's one of the most disgusting things I've ever heard," he added.
Most commercially available assault weapons are not automatics but semi-automatics, which means the gun fires a single round each time the trigger is pulled. Manufacturers have boasted that an experienced shooter can fire as many as 45 rounds in a minute from a semi-automatic. It is legal in some states to own an automatic, although purchasing one requires a lengthy review process.
Kerr ended by noting what makes him somewhat different from many of the politicians who oppose increased gun control: He knows what it feels like to lose someone you love because of guns. Many don't.
"You wonder if any of these Senators and Congressmen and women who are so opposed to even holding a vote on not only the right to buy an automatic weapon, but just the background checks and the lists and all the stuff, how would they feel about this if their own child, their own mother, their own father, sister, brother, wife, husband was murdered -- mass murdered. Would that change your mind? I don’t know, but how many times do we have to go through this before our government actually does something about it?"
This article has been updated with additional information about the distinction between automatic and semi-automatic weapons.