As a sub-set of the human race, athletes are a group that has a particularly checkered history with the ownership and use of guns. We are seeing that very fact laid out in front of us with the horrific tragedy that is the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa.
If the defendant did mean to kill his girlfriend that’s horrible. If he didn’t, it’s even more tragic in many ways. Either way the common denominator is the gun in his hand. Without a gun in his hand the chances are Pistorius would not have killed his girlfriend.
However he had a gun, and, like many athletes, he was unable to harness its terrible power.
The many incidents involving modern professional athletes and guns are so voluminous and varied in nature that you can actually divide them up into categories. Two of the main groups would be titled ‘Good old stupidity’ and then ‘Pure tragedy.’
In terms of the former, the list is long and suitably ridiculous.
The NBA player Stephen Jackson is perhaps the poster child for athletes, guns and stupidity, primarily because (thankfully) he missed. Several times. We will get back to this topic at the end of this article, but the details are, again thankfully, comedic. Jackson got into an altercation outside a (cough, cough) gentleman’s club and after being punched, he immediately escalated the situation to gun-play, by reaching into his jacket and taking out a gun. He fired at his assailant five times, and missed, five times.
Yes, it is pathetic, and thankfully we can call it such as no one was killed in the incident.
The gun doesn’t always have to go off for an athlete to have a stupid incident with it.
Take, for example, NBA player Sebastian Telfair, arrested in 2005 trying to board a jet with a handgun ‘hidden’ inside a pillow case in his luggage. Maybe he thought the pillow case was made of Kryptonite. Then there was the NBA’s Delonte West, who was arrested in 2009 after a routine traffic stop uncovered that he was traveling with a pistol, a magnum and a shotgun, all in a guitar case. You can really only shake your head at that one, although there is a group of blithering idiots out there who would rant like trained seals ‘The constitution gives him the right to carry firearms!’ Maybe so, but in this case, the law didn’t!
Of course, the award for dumbest idiot athlete of all in a gun-related incident has to be the former Giants receiver Plaxio Burress, who shot himself in the leg with his concealed weapon while in a night club.
When it comes to the tragic category, sadly athletes and guns continue to show they are a terrible mix.
Two horrific incidents jump to mind.
In 2010 Jayson Williams shot his limo driver to death by accident while showing his gun collection to guests at his mansion. Then in 2012 Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself and his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins to death.
However, in terms of tragedy the Oscar Pistorius trial is hard to match.
For Pistorius, the key to the trial is going to be how he wriggles out of the perception that several loud screams were heard before three loud shots.
The most sickening part of the tragic murder/accident is that Pistorius went to great lengths to procure particularly damaging bullets for his weapon. The explosive bullets he purchased are designed to ‘mushroom’ whilst inside the victim, basically ensuring the victim has a very low chance of survival. The bullet cuts into tissue, arteries and other vital human matter, turning it into spaghetti as it makes a vicious, piranha like dive through the victim’s insides.
Other civilizations, in time, might look back and call the creation and use of such bullets as disgusting. For Pistorius it was just an extension of his macho gun-loving personality. If he was going to be a gun owner, he was going to own the most lethal bullets for same.
Little did he know he would one day be firing those absolutely horrific bullets into a former loved one.
Intentional or not, the basic error of human ways, when combined with the use of guns, is exposed tragically and brutally here. One moment a brash, highly tuned and frankly arrogant athlete was purchasing vicious, cruel bullets to put in his gun and the next he is pumping those same bullets into his girlfriend, who was hiding, screaming in the bathroom.
For some, the light will prove too dim through the trees and they will bark and rave about the right to bear arms as the above.
For the rest of us, the simple lunacy of the Pistorius tragedy is all too clear.
Here is the truly sobering part to all of this.
Modern day professional athletes in the United States and abroad are paid millions of dollars because they are, for the most part, of a different, physically superior, breed to you and me. They run faster, they think quicker and their hand-eye coordination is generally superior to ours. If the above tragic idiots are that prone to disaster, misuse and just plain old missing with firearms, why do we, as a society, think it is okay for physically lesser beings to play with guns?
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