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OPINION | Bullets that flew in Kansas City didn’t care what side you line up on when it comes to gun control | CBC Sports

Minutes after the mass shooting at the Kansas City post-Super Bowl parade, in which one person was killed and at least 22 hospitalized, K.C. offensive lineman Trey Smith spotted a frightened young boy, cowering in the crowd alongside his family.

Smith, who makes his living protecting superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, couldn’t rewind time to prevent the gunfire, or shield the young football fan from the spasm of violence that had marred his team’s championship celebration, but he could do something. So he approached the boy and gifted him the replica WWE championship belt Smith had brandished during the 3.2-kilometre parade, which ended at Union Station, mere metres from where the bullets flew.

“I was just thinking, ‘What can I do to help him out?'” Smith told ABC’s Good Morning America. “I just handed him the belt. ‘Hey, buddy, you’re the champion. No one’s going to hurt you, man. We’ve got your back.'”

If you can squint, you can see the silver lining — another example of the power of sport. Connecting a terrified child with one of his heroes. The star athlete soothing the boy’s justifiably rattled nerves. Smith demonstrating that when tragedy strikes, each of us is equipped to help somehow, some way.

The timing also mattered.

After a tragedy like this, we’re eager to hear stories that highlight empathy and optimism, and reassure us that life, especially with the help of our favourite athletes, will return to normal soon.

Normalized 

The problem, of course, is that mass shootings are themselves becoming normal — 49 in the U.S. in the first six weeks of the year — and the stages of post-shooting reaction have become predictable: social media hashtags celebrating the strength of the community where the shooting happened; thoughts and prayers from lawmakers who claim they’re powerless to prevent the gunfire; stories of heroism highlighting civilians and first responders who helped apprehend the shooter or stanch a victim’s bleeding.

WATCH | Parade-goer describes helping tackle alleged shooter: 

Kansas City parade-goer describes helping tackle alleged shooter

Paul Contreras said he heard people yelling to catch someone running past, so he leapt into action. Contreras describes how he tackled and helped pin an alleged shooter at the Kansas City Super Bowl parade on Wednesday.

These shootings are now so routine that we’re fast forwarding past the part where we try to figure out how to stop them. ESPN’s NFL Live crew made an admirable attempt on Wednesday afternoon, but by Thursday morning the top stories on the company’s website focused on the NFL off-season, with the parade shooting pushed halfway down the page. We’ve barely heard the usual reflexive crowing from gun rights advocates that you can only prevent gun violence with more guns.

Mass shootings have settled into place alongside the coronavirus — deadly threats we treat casually, and risks we’re expected to assume each time we step outside. You want to catch that flight? Fine, but you might catch COVID, too. Consider it part of the price of the ticket. And a stray bullet in a mass shooting? Just the price of living in a free society. Your right to safety in public doesn’t outweigh somebody else’s right to carry a gun. All. Rights. Matter.

Each mass shooting is a deeply abnormal occurrence we’ve been conditioned to view as normal. The difference here is that this one, in which a popular local DJ named Lisa Lopez-Galvan died, happened at a Super Bowl parade instead of a school or a skating rink.

Sports are often portrayed as a powerful unifying force, and sometimes that cliche is actually true. The participants at Wednesday’s parade, estimated to number one million, included a wide range of ethnic, racial and religious identities, and people from all over the U.S. political spectrum. In celebrating the Super Bowl, the crowd’s one shared identity — Kansas City fan — trumped whatever threatened to divide them.

But if the power of sports to unify fractured communities ran as wide and deep as we think it does, this is where teams, leagues and broadcast partners would pressure lawmakers to make real progress on the only issue at play here — gun control.

Wrong approach

Except we treat gun control as political, and even as certain sports power brokers cheerlead for politicians and Supreme Court nominees, teams and leagues are often reluctant to make nakedly partisan moves. Advocating for stricter gun laws certainly qualifies.

But limiting civilian access to powerful firearms isn’t an inherently political issue. Like vaccines and medical care, it’s a public health issue that has become politicized.

So my beef here isn’t with Republicans per se. It’s with the sheer number of firearms U.S. manufacturers crank out every year — 13.8 million in 2021 alone, according to Statista.

It’s with the state of Missouri, where Wednesday’s shooting occurred, and where teenaged drivers are required to have supervision behind the wheel before earning a full driver’s license, yet adolescent firearms carriers face few restrictions.

WATCH | Fans flee following gunshots during Super Bowl parade: 

‘When people run, you run,’ Kansas City shooting eyewitness says

Kansas City’s Super Bowl victory parade was thrown into chaos when people began fleeing after hearing gunshots.

And its with developments like the one where a set of Missouri lawmakers proposed banning teenagers from open-carrying guns on public grounds unless supervised by an adult.

Last February, another group of lawmakers voted to reject that rule. That the state representatives who think children should be allowed to brandish guns in public are all Republicans is likely more than a coincidence, but it doesn’t change the central issue. Laws that encourage unlicensed, unrestricted access to guns don’t directly cause mass shootings, but they certainly remove barriers between deadly weapons, bad actors, and bad decisions. Yes, it’s difficult to unlink gun control from politics, but if your politics align with laws that endanger innocent people, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why.

Today.

In the aftermath of a mass shooting.

Right time for discussion

Gun rights advocates often tell us the first day or week or month following gunfire isn’t the time, but I’d argue anytime is the right time. If we can have a World Cup in December and a Super Bowl in mid-February, we can take a sober look at changing our relationship with guns right after dozens of shots ring out in a crowded public place. Especially if that crowd had gathered to celebrate Kansas City’s victory in the most-watched Super Bowl in history. Right now, with the game fresh on a record number of minds, is the best for that discussion. 

We’ll start locally.

Missouri law allows people to carry guns in public as long as the weapons aren’t displayed in an angry or threatening manner. In my most generous reading, that provision sounds like a token gesture toward gun safety. Reading it through a skeptical lens, it looks contemptuous of everyone except gun owners.

Ask yourself: How fast can someone go from pointing the muzzle upward to aiming at a crowd?

Fast.

How quickly can they squeeze a trigger?

Faster still.

And the speed at which bullets travel?

Supersonic. Faster than we can measure, interpret or react to.

Football fans take cover during a shooting at a parade.
Kansas City fans take cover during the shooting at the Super Bowl victory parade on Wednesday. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bullets don’t discriminate

That’s what I mean when I say it’s not political.

A fired bullet doesn’t pause to assess age, race or gender, or ask who you intend to vote for in November. It just flies until it hits something. If it hits you, it tears through flesh, whether you support Trump, Biden, Cornel West or RFK Jr.

Maybe those bullets missed you and an offensive lineman you admired, and the next day he shared the story of how he reassured you amid the chaos. If that happens, you wear two labels that, in this situation, mean more than Democrat, Republican, Kansas City fan or 49ers supporter: Lucky and Alive. 


dwnews

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