On Friday morning, Charlotte Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson was informed that his Charlotte-area home was invaded. Three masked men held his wife at gunpoint and stole various belongings.
First, before anything else, it needs to be said that this was a horrible incident, and it is amazing and joyous that no one was hurt or killed.
However, the pain of feeling violated and having one's home invaded is a tremendous burden. The thoughts and sympathies of many are deservedly with the Jackson family in their troubled times.
Among other belongings, the intruders took two guns—a 9mm handgun and a stun gun.
Shortly after the incident was reported, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill linked to the report and wrote on Twitter:
"And [people] wonder why athletes carry guns. Stephen Jackson's wife held at gunpoint in their home."
I respect Miss Hill a lot, but she misses the point.
Stephen Jackson owned a gun—two of them actually—neither of which seemed to remedy this situation at all.
A Gun Doesn't Make Anyone Safe
Note what that above sentence doesn't say. The point is not that a gun can't make someone safer. C ertainly one can.
But safety, absolute safety, is something that is never afforded by any one person or any one thing.
One of the most shocking elements of the Jackson home invasion is that the home was in a gated community—another factor that was supposedly supposed to afford the Jacksons with security.
The guns didn't.
Living in a gated community is safer than not. The argument can be made that owning a gun is safer than not.
In this world, at this point in time, no one is absolutely safe. People can do crazy things at anytime to whomever they want. Professional athletes especially can be targets of robbery and violence.
But athletes, and people in general, can do things to be safer.
Most importantly, people live in gated communities and own guns to feel safer.
Buying a Gun To Feel Safe is the Stupidest Thing a Person Can Do.
Again, what doesn't that sentence say? Owning a gun is not stupid. It is a choice. Choices and decisions can be good, and they can be bad.
But for any athete—and any reader out there—who thinks that owning a gun makes them "safe", nothing could be farther from the truth.
Buying a gun to feel safe is idiotic and done far too often in American society and even more often among professional athletes.
"Feeling safe" with a gun in the home is a false sense of security that is so ignorant, so dangerous, words hardly describe it. The Jackson home invasion proves that fact. Guns were in the home, but a hundred other factors made the Jackson family at that time, in that place, not safe.
Not at all.
So many hypothetical questions can be asked about this specific situation. Did Renate Jackson know how to use the guns? Was she comfortable with using the guns? Would she have been able to frighten the intruders or subdue the intruders with a gun?
Would things have been much much worse?
Guns, More Than Anything, Can Also Make a Safe Situation Deadly
Every situation? No.
This situation? No one can say.
Some situations? Definitely.
Again, hypothetically, what if Stephen Jackson had been home and confronted the home invaders with his 9mm?
We could be talking about a athlete and his family dead at the hands of home invaders.
Again, this is just hypothetical, but no one has ever been killed because of living in a gated community, or having a home security system, or bars on the windows, or a motion sensitive camera, etc., etc., etc.
People do get killed because armed robbers who just wanted a TV got into a gunfight instead.
Everyone can agree that the Jacksons have been through a lot today. Words cannot express the grief Renate Jackson went through being held with a gun to her head and then locked in her own bathroom while her home was ransacked.
At the same time, everyone can agree things could have turned out much worse.
Money Can Always Be Spent More Wisely
Safety is not a zero sum game—especially for a professional athlete with seemingly unlimited funds.
Is a gun a wise purchase? It can be.
It isn't always.
Some things are.
A home security system with a loud, active alarm system that is also connected to a monitoring center can stop an intruder in his tracks.
The same burglar who might chance a gun fight with a home owner is less likely to chance one with law enforcement.
A system with an alarm is not the end-all/be-all of home security. Doors and windows can always be made safer. Dogs, especially loud ones, have proved to be effective at turning back criminals.
LeBron James even had a guard stationed outside of his Cleveland home!
In addition, home and renters insurance are always wise things to have.
With insurance, belongings become something that can almost always be replaced. Let Allstate pay for your Louis Vitton purse or Rolex watch.
Don't die for it.
The idea, the very manly idea, that belongings are something worth dying for is stupidity at its finest.
Family? By all means, one should be ready to die to protect himself and his family.
Stuff? It's just stuff.
If someone wants stuff, let them have it. No THING is worth dying over.
So the fact is not that money spent on a gun can't help protect someone, but is money being spent on a gun instead of something else. Or, perhaps more apt, is a person spending money on a gun and thinking that is good enough?
Stay Out of Dangerous Situations
Stephen Jackson is no stranger to confrontation.
In 2006, Jackson was charged by police with firing a weapon outside of a strip club in Indianapolis. Jackson claimed self defense as he had been struck in the face and even hit by a car in the fracas.
Was five shots straight into the air an effective method of self-defense?
The argument could be made than since Jackson is alive today, it must have helped in some regard.
What else could have helped?
Not being in a strip club!
Does Stephen Jackson have the right to hang out with Al Harrington and look at naked women? Yes!
Is it a good idea for professional athletes to hang out together in a environment packed with testosterone and alcohol? No!
Bringing a piece to the strip club didn't stop Stephen Jackson from getting punched in the face. Staying home would have.
Bringing a gun tucked into his (classy) sweatpants didn't stop Plaxico Burress from shooting himself in his leg. Playing Madden that night would have been much safer.
Does anyone hear stories about Kurt Warner being in a fist fight? No, instead he tells stories on Twitter about playing boardgames with his kids.
Mike Sims Walker and Gerald Alexander are more likely to be out at a bowling alley than a night club.
No one should say that professional athletes need to be wallflowers or homebodies. No one should try to legislate what events or locales are permissible for other people.
However, each choice—from going out, where the athlete goes, and who he goes out with—directly effects the level of safety and the possibility of confrontation.
Add in alcohol and drugs—a bag of marijuana was found in the car Jackson took in 2006—and the possibility for danger increases exponentially.
So, What Is the Solution?
As said before, no absolute solution exists.
Yet, the idea that a gun is that absolute solution is so far from the truth that it needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
Being a man, a real man, and doing everything possible to protect oneself and one's family can include a gun, but it does not end there.
Making good decisions, putting oneself in better situations, realizing that fame and fortune make people targets—all of that make a person safer.
Boiling a horrible situation down to "people wonder why athletes carry guns," is so simplistic, such a cop-out, that it doesn't help anyone and doesn't advance the conversation.
Feeling safe because of a firearm is the most dangerous thing anyone—especially a professional athlete—can do.
Athletes, because of their fame and wealth, need to think very hard about and come up with a comprehensive plan for the safety of themselves and their family.
Buying a gun can be a small part of that plan.
Buying a gun cannot be the only part.