In his latest op-ed, columnist LZ Granderson says the NBA (and the country at large) has a problem with “gun culture”, but as we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, what he’s really describing is a culture of criminality far removed from responsible gun ownership.
Granderson takes the recent saga of Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant and his suspension for waving a gun around on social media as his starting point, but quickly pivots to a broader take on what he describes as “gun culture”.
Did you know that at the beginning of this NBA season, a 17-year-old basketball player by the name of Shayma Roman was fatally shot in the face, while standing outside with friends near her grandmother’s house in New York? Two people just walked up to them and started shooting.Roman wasn’t even a target. The next month, 16-year-old Letrell Duncan, a high school basketball player out of East Orange, New Jersey, was shot and killed after school.“He was one of the ones who was really going to make it,” one of Duncan’s former teammates was quoted as saying. “There was a few people who you can say got it. He was one of those.” And maybe he was. We’ll never know.In December 2022, 20-year-old college basketball player Phillip Urban was shot and killed in Connecticut. Robbery. Two teenagers — 16 and 17 — charged with his murder.School massacres get national media coverage, but they aren’t the only kind of shooting that robs us of young promise.
That’s true, but it’s hard to argue that “gun culture” is to blame here. After all, the three tragedies that Granderson cites all took place in states that are downright hostile to gun ownership. New York City and New Jersey have tried for decades to denormalize gun ownership and make it taboo, and while Connecticut’s foray into anti-gun extremism is a relatively recent development compared to those other states, Gov. Ned Lamont is making up for lost time by demanding a host of anti-2A laws aimed at making it harder to lawfully exercise the right to keep and bear arms.
This anti-gun ideology has also been on full display in Maryland, where a spokesman for Gov. Wes Moore recently declared that “more guns on the street is the problem” while defending the state’s new crackdown on lawful concealed carry holders. Granderson too appears to believe that lawful gun ownership is synonymous with criminal behavior, and that there’s no difference between Morant’s actions and a GOP congresscritter posing for Christmas pictures with their gun-toting family.
But let’s not make it all about Morant. It’s easy to say he was a role model and his attitudes are the real danger. But he’s just one person.In the Instagram videos, Morant is engaging in an aspect of gun culture that some white members of Congress model for Christmas pictures: Showing off the weapon. Each scene disturbs certain people, for different reasons. My hope is that the NBA and Nike will talk about those reasons. And the subcultures that celebrate guns. The league and the brand have huge and diverse audiences, and if they could change a few minds, they could save untold lives.
If Morant’s only “offense” was sending out Christmas cards with him holding on to a 9mm, no one would be talking about his suspension or the risk of losing tens of millions of dollars as a result. But the NBA star was not only caught on Instagram violating some of the cardinal rules of gun safety. He was suspended several months ago for displaying a gun at a Denver nightclub, and has been accused by a teenager of punching him and displaying a gun during a pickup basketball game at Morant’s home.
There’s a string of reckless conduct on the part of Morant here that you won’t find at your local gun range, and calling it just another part of “gun culture” is kind of like saying drunk driving is a part of “car culture”. Frankly, real gun culture doesn’t generate a lot of headlines, because we’re talking about tens of millions of Americans who are safe and responsible with their guns. They’re not making the news, so we’re not thinking much about them. But whether it’s a gun show, a rifle raffle, or a stereotype-busting event at a range, there’s plenty of evidence of a lawful gun culture to be found… at least for those looking for it. And I’d argue that if Granderson wants to see fewer tragedies involving teenagers illegally possessing and using guns in violent crime, the answer is not more gun control, but a recognition that guns are here to stay. Stop denormalizing gun ownership and pushing it to the shadows and start fostering a culture of responsible gun owners instead; more public ranges, more educational opportunities, and fewer barriers to legal gun ownership. As Fox 5 in Baltimore recently reported, in order to legally carry a gun in Maryland it will cost you about $1,400, but if you don’t mind breaking the law the cost is negligible. After all, you can always just steal one.
Gun control fosters a culture of irresponsible and criminal gun use while failing to get rid of the guns themselves. We should all find the murders that Granderson wrote about unconscionable and unacceptable, but his “solution” would only make things even worse.