I heard about the tragedy in Kansas City the way I hear about anything these days: on Twitter. On Saturday morning, an NFL linebacker for the Chiefs killed his live-in girlfriend, then drove to a team facility and turned the gun on himself. Jovan Belcher and Kasandra “Kasi” Perkins are survived by their 3-month-old daughter, now an orphan.
Alleged details have emerged to explain what led to this shocking event. Friends of the young couple describe an immature relationship fraught with problems, including Belcher’s excessive drinking, abuse of prescription medication and head injuries. The football organization was aware of problems between the on/off pair — they had only recently reunited over Thanksgiving weekend — and had provided them with counseling. Many of the figurative signs, though blurry, point to a fragile and volatile partnering with ongoing issues that were “resolved” in the most tragic way possible.
We’re all trying to make what sense can be had of this horrific scenario, grasping to pinpoint something, anything evidently, to blame. Somewhat surprisingly, the obvious reasons — domestic violence and perhaps mental illness — aren’t always at the forefront. Though Black women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white females, and African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24 (Kasandra Perkins was 22), on Sunday Night Football the Kansas City murder-suicide prompted a conversation on gun control instead. Host Bob Costas quoted an essay by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, which advocated for more gun control, then added, “If Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.” (Costas has since called his remarks “a mistake.”)
Belcher didn’t go on a rampage, killing strangers in a public setting at will. He argued with his girlfriend and yelled at her, "You can’t talk to me like that!”, according to the police report. And then, he unloaded nine bullets into her. Belcher obviously wanted to kill Kasi Perkins for disrespecting him. If a gun hadn’t been readily available, I don’t doubt he would have used a knife or his fists, or whatever sharp or blunt and heavy object was available.
No matter how fiercely anyone believes in the Second Amendment giving Americans the right to bear arms, it can’t be overlooked that guns keep being used to disastrous ends in places like Littleton, Colorado (town of Columbine); Chicago; and Kansas City. Sure, there’s a necessary conversation to be had about gun control in the United States. But to muse on gun control is to ignore what this tragedy is about. It isn’t the weapon of choice, but rather the unbalanced man who thought even for a second that murder was a justifiable punishment and an unhinged culture where domestic violence is all too prevalent.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk