By Rick Manning — The human tragedy that occurred in the stadium parking lot, where a professional football player killed his girlfriend and mother of his child, and himself became magnified into a gun control debate when columnist Jason Whitlock and television sports commentator Bob Costas chose to turn their media platforms into a national debate on gun control.
Whitlock’s written rant contains the following statement, “A gun turns some kids listening to music into a murder scene. And uh, you know, if you don’t have a gun, you drive home. You know, kids listening to some loud music, you don’t like it, you go home and complain to your wife. But when you have a gun, you open fire, potentially, and take the life of a child.”
In emotionally exercising his First Amendment right, Whitlock makes some incendiary charges that he undoubtedly felt were important and ground breaking.
If either he or Costas had bothered to look at fairly recent history, each of them could have found out what happens when law-abiding Americans become unencumbered by restrictive gun laws.
In the early 1980s in Florida, it was a time of Miami Vice with a drug culture out of control, and the homicide rate skyrocketing. From the early 1940s to the early 1960s, the homicide rate was steadily just above three homicides per 100,000 persons in the state. Yet after a steady rise through the 60s and 70s, Florida found itself with double the number of homicides on a per capita basis.
Jim Crow law remnants left the ability to legally carry a concealed handgun up to the local county sheriffs, most of whom routinely denied virtually every applicant just because they could.
A brutal three-year legislative battle ensued between gun rights advocates and fear mongerers who issued dire predictions that blood would be running in the streets if law-abiding Floridians were allowed to carry handguns concealed in public.
Jason Whitlock’s predictions and assumptions about the presence of a firearm being a primary cause of violent behavior ran amok among the media and other elites. The state’s newspapers and broadcasts were awash in frightening predictions about the coming escalation of violence that would occur should concealed carry legislation become law.
Finally, against heavy odds, in 1987, the people were given a non-arbitrary process to legally carry concealed handguns, which went into effect in January, 1988.
If Whitlock, Costa and others of their ilk from 20 years ago were correct, homicides should have spiked and Don Johnson’s television show should have had another decade to run as Miami became the center of violence in America.
But that is not what happened. In fact, over the course of a few years, the homicide rate receded back to its historic levels of the early 1960s.
It got so bad for criminals seeking to avoid armed citizens that they took to targeting vehicles with rental car license plates because they knew out of state visitors did not have a gun on their possession.
Those who believed that the mere possession of a handgun led to increased homicides in the 1980s had an excuse of not knowing better. Whitlock and Costas don’t have that excuse.
In Florida, every year approximately 400 additional people are alive because the homicide rate was driven down by allowing law-abiding citizens to carry guns. In 20-plus years, that adds up to 8,000 people who were not murdered. We don’t know their names, haven’t seen their faces, and they don’t even know who they are. Yet, we know they exist.
There was a human tragedy that occurred in Kansas City, where a man committed a murder-suicide. It is a shame that commentators like Whitlock and Costas chose the intellectually easy and factually wrong cultural phenomenon to blame.
In the wake of their embarrassing pronouncements, perhaps someone should start clamoring for a seven-day waiting period before the media elite can use their First Amendment rights to advocate the destruction of other freedoms. Of course, why would the self-righteous want to actually have facts before subjecting their readers and listeners to their emotional reactions?
Rick Manning (@rmanning957) is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government. In the mid-1980s, he was a National Rifle Association lobbyist involved in the passage of Florida’s life saving concealed carry law.