The Golden Gate and the Gun: Two Equally-Easily-Deadlies?

The Twitterverse is abuzz today with talk of Bob Costas’s Sunday Night football comments about guns. The context for those comments, briefly, is that a day or so earlier a professional football player in Kansas City named Jovan Belcher had allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend, with whom he had parented a three-month-old daughter, and had then driven himself to his team’s practice area, where he then, after thanking some of his coaches for their support and help and while still in their presence, proceeded to shoot and kill himself.

The predictable Rorschach Test has ensued. Gun control folks see this as a great time to argue for gun control; guns rights folks see this as a great time to argue for guns rights.

Courtesy of Real Clear Politics, here is the transcript of what Costas had to say:

Well, you knew it was coming. In the aftermath of the nearly unfathomable events in Kansas City, that most mindless of sports clichés was heard yet again: Something like this really puts it all in perspective.

Well, if so, that sort of perspective has a very short shelf-life since we will inevitably hear about the perspective we have supposedly again regained the next time ugly reality intrudes upon our games. Please, those who need tragedies to continually recalibrate their sense of proportion about sports would seem to have little hope of ever truly achieving perspective. You want some actual perspective on this? Well, a bit of it comes from the Kansas City-based writer Jason Whitlock with whom I do not always agree, but who today said it so well that we may as well just quote or paraphrase from the end of his article.

“Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, “ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.”

“Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it. In the coming days, Jovan Belcher’s actions, and their possible connection to football will be analyzed. Who knows?”

“But here,” wrote Jason Whitlock, “is what I believe. If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”


Ted Nugent, well-known gun-liker and large-game-killer, had this to tweet in response [sic for all of these tweets]:

Hey Bob Costas we all kno that obesity is a direct result of the proliferation of spoons & forks Get a clue


And then there is this tweet from someone with 133 followers (which, in the Twitterverse and Twitterese, means that the fellow is not at all a thought-leader and is just a common-Joe sort of fellow), nicely summarizing the polarity and the Rorschach’yess of the whole thing:

 I literally disagreed with everything bob costas said


So where do you find yourself on this one? What do you see when you look at this Rorschach?

*  *  *

In my experience, the guns-rights issue is right up there with abortion and the death penalty in terms of how black and white the issue is for most folks, with very few people placing themselves in the middle.

Fairly many people — a shocking number, in fact — do, however, place themselves in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge and then jump off. Few survive the 200-plus foot fall and, if they did, most would drown in the cold and roiling waters the bridge spans. Because, forget The Beach Boys and summer fun and forget Southern California, which is hundreds of miles away; remember, instead, that the waters touching Ess Eff Sea Eh are always wicked cold, suitable for children under ten only, and not for all of ’em, and then only up to their knees (and please do be very careful of the waves, both regular and rogue, as well as of the undertows and such . . . ).

So very many people take the jump, in fact, that we here in Northern California have gone through a decades-long debate about whether to install suicide barriers on the bridge. Lovers of the beauty of the bridge — if you’ve never seen it, you really should ’cause it’s a real beauty! — do not want to see the look of the bridge changed.

Some of those who’ve had loved ones breathe their last breath while falling from the bridge fight for the barriers, arguing that the look of the bridge would be little-changed and many lives saved. It’s an attractive nuisance, they say. If it wasn’t so easy to jump off that bridge, and so top-of-mind, my child would still be alive. So please, let’s put up barriers and save lives.

So how many lives would suicide barriers save? It’s hard to know for sure, but estimates are that someone jumps off the bridge about every other week, making it one of the top handful of places in the world where people decide to live life’s last. So, if you assume that the suicide barriers would be 100% effective, they could save as many as a couple ‘a dozen folks each year from approaching and then succumbing to that deadly nuisance that some see when they see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here’s what the rest of us most fundamentally see:

Aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge, looking northeast, with Angel Island in the rear


*  *  *

And here’s what I know. Forks and spoons are for eating, the Golden Gate Bridge is for getting to the other side, and guns are for hurling a little piece of metal fast enough and hard enough to penetrate whatever is in the path of that little piece of metal as it makes its physical way to its ultimate resting place, regardless of consequence and regardless of where that resting place is and what it has to go through to get there.

And I know that forks and spoons also allow people to eat too much, the Golden Gate Bridge also provides a handy and quite majestic place to live life’s last, and guns also provide a way to involuntarily take the life of another being.

And when I look at that Rorschach image, I see that, of those three things, one is not like the other. One of those three things is far more easily deadly than the others. And with respect to someone other than (usually) the intended direct-user of the thing, one of those three things is also more involuntarily-easily-deadly than the others.

*  *  *

When you look out at the world, do you see a WAITT world or a YOYODED world?

Or both?

On one hand, we’re all in this together, living in a WAITT world (in Jared Bernstein-ese). In a WAITT sense, there are ways to bend the curve — at least some — on how many events like the Jovan Belcher shooting happen (not to mention the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Columbine high school shooting, the Tucson shopping center shooting, etc, etc., etc.), while also not impacting Nugent’s hunting hobby, and not leading to a world in which only the criminals have guns.

At the same time, there’s no denying that we are all part of a very you’re-on-your-own, very dog-eat-dog world (a YOYODED world in John Friedman-ese — because Jared just goes with the YOYO acronym and leaves behind the much more illuminating, in my opinion, dog imagery . . . ).

So we play hard and we play for keeps; we gain at others’ losses and we make them eat our dust.

In the aggregate, this approach has served us well in many ways. Internationally/economically, for instance, we’ve been indisputable Top Dog for more than a century. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

But, please, can’t we make us dogs, when we get angry or unhinged, a bit less easily deadly? Because, after all, we really do inhabit the same place, and we really are on this journey together. And, who knows? The you who is on your own might be the you who is staring down the barrel of a gun some other you has half-a-mind to use in a way that your you would would really rather that other you not pursue.

So how about we aim towards a world in which the most physically aggressive act a fellow dog could hurl at your you would be a vehement, gut-felt growl, followed by a quick turn and a walk-away?

We have centuries to get it right, but sooner than that would be nice.

*  *  *

Thank you, Bob, for saying what I view to be the truth, and an inevitably-true truth at that.

Now can you please talk to NBC and convince them to not screw up the Olympics?

*  *  *

Full disclosure: I haven’t directly known any GGB suicide jumpers, but, in unrelated instances occurring over the last decade, loved ones of two friends of mine have jumped off the bridge. I view the bridge differently as a result, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I never walk on it again.

One thousand words exactly (before I wrote this wordcount ending) — about a ten-minute read sans linked-to- content



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