Houston Astros outfielder Luke Scott slammed an ammo clip into his .45-caliber Glock handgun, assumed the ready position and fired off 10 successive shots in 2.5 seconds, causing shell casings to fly in every direction. The thundering noise of gunshots filled the air and echoed through the trees, briefly disrupting the silence that surrounded his makeshift shooting range on a strip of land just a mile or so from the house he grew up in DeLeon Springs, Fla.
"That's a clip," Scott said matter-of-factly as he looked up, emptied the cartridge from his handgun and slid the weapon into his front pocket.
Scott proceeded to walk up to the target that was blowing in the breeze 10 feet away, the ideal distance for practicing self-defense maneuvers, and pointed to the form of a man that was outlined on the target. With a bull's-eye on its chest to highlight the kill zone, Scott began to count the bullet holes that were on target: "There's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine ..." He stopped to chuckle then said, "That's a poor soul right there.
"An athlete gets paid a lot of money," he said. "And someone who is after that, a thief, a mugger or someone who steals from people, they are taking a chance with the law that if they get caught, they are going to jail or face some other problem."
With a broad smile, he added, "In my case, you are going to get shot."
Scott, who was called up from the minors in July, batted .336 with 10 home runs in an impressive rookie season with the Astros. He is also one of the many athletes who carry a gun.
"How do you combat a man with a firearm?" Scott asked. "You don't combat him with a golf club, baseball bat or a knife. You combat him with another firearm."
Scott has a license to carry a concealed weapon and claims he carries his gun with him almost everywhere, always wanting to be prepared.
"I'll put this like that ..." Scott said. He picked his gun up off the table, placed it in his back pocket and made sure his shirt wasn't tucked into his pants, covering up the gun. He did a quick spin with his arms in the air and said, "You can't see it."
Scott has never been in trouble with the law, but the list of professional athletes who either have been charged or arrested for gun-related crimes is long. The combination of athletes and guns increasingly has become a volatile mixture.
Many incidents indicate that athletes rely on firearms for self-protection or as a means to resolve an altercation. But estimates on how many professional athletes carry guns, legally or illegally, vary. By Scott's estimation, as many as 20 percent of Major League Baseball players carry concealed weapons, and more than 50 percent own some type of gun.
Roger Renrick is familiar with the prevalence of guns among professional athletes. A former Boston police officer, Renrick is now a bodyguard who has worked for Paul Pierce, Antoine Walker and Jalen Rose. Renrick describes gun ownership among NBA players as "very common."
"I would probably say close to 60 percent," he said.
New England Patriots wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, a gun owner himself, said he thinks 90 percent of NFL players have firearms.
"Lots of guys I know have weapons either in their house or, in places where you can carry it, they have a permit to carry it," Gaffney said.