Athletes and Guns: Armed ... Dangerous?

Most athletes would agree.

"To the criminal element, anyone with money and fame is a target," Scott said.

"Away from football we try to be regular people, go out and have a good time," Gaffney said. "But eyes are always on us and sometimes people want what you have and they try to get it."

Some Say Recognition Makes Them Targets

In September 2000, the Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce survived a brutal multiple stabbing at a Boston nightclub. Pierce is now licensed to carry a concealed weapon, but leaves his gun at home and hires a bodyguard when he goes out. Still, Pierce considers himself a target.

"Because I'm recognized from TV, people want what I have," Pierce said. "You have to be careful because people out there in the world are very envious of your life."

But some players don't agree that an athlete's high profile makes them a target in society.

"I don't know what you need a gun for in the NBA," former Utah Jazz star Karl Malone said in disbelief. "What are you doing that you want a gun? Who have you pissed off that you need a gun?" Malone's eyes grew bigger and he shrugged his shoulders, apparently confused at the reasoning behind athletes' fear of being attacked.

Malone is hardly anti-gun. An avid hunter, Malone even has been a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. But he rejects the argument that athletes need guns for protection.

"I think it's just a smoke screen, just an easy reason to say you want a gun," Malone said.

While Malone supports the constitutional right to bear arms, he said he is skeptical of the average athlete's mentality when it comes to firearms.

"Everybody sticks their chest out now when they have a firearm on them," Malone said, mocking the thought process of the common athlete. "'I come up from the hard part of the streets, the mean streets, and I need my gun and all of that?' Come on, please, enough of that already. We're tired of that."

Malone said he wants athletes to realize the dangerous nature of guns.

"Now why do these guys carry guns? Is that the 'cool' thing to do? Well 'cool' gets you dead!" Malone said.

"I know there is probably somebody out there who's carrying a gun because it makes him feel like more of a man," Williams said truthfully. "You don't carry a gun just to make you feel like you are big-time. That's the wrong reason to carry."

Alter Behavior to Stay Safe

For athletes who claim they need a gun for protection, Malone has a suggestion: stop hanging out in places of risk.

"Three a.m.? My goodness gracious, what were you doing out at 3 o'clock in the morning? Who were you with? Where were you at? Do you need a gun to protect you or do you need a babysitter to get you where you need to be all the time so that you don't get in any trouble?" Malone said.

Malone said he thinks the problems stem from the people athletes sometimes keep as company, and the places they spend their free time.

"You can enjoy yourself in nice places, but we're talking about gun stuff," he said. "We need to talk more about where we are going, what we are doing, and who we are hanging out with that lead up to these confrontations."

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