The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 26, 2012

Just shut up and coach

By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle

— Hold on to your guns, folks. The all-out assault on Americans’ right to bear and keep firearms has begun in the wake of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14 in which 26 people, including 20 lovely, innocent children, were slaughtered in an armed assault by a clearly mentally unstable person.

The knee-jerk piling-on has come from the usual suspects, including President Barack Obama, who is using this tragedy to further his anti-gun agenda, (Remember, in 2008 he referred to folks who believe in religion and self-defense as those who “bitterly cling” to guns and God.), who think the solution is to disarm law-abiding citizens, who follow the laws and act responsibly. They make no distinction between thugs who won’t let gun laws get in their way of getting their hands on firearms or other means of destruction and those who go through appropriate channels and act responsibly. But the hue and cry also is coming from a couple of surprising sources as well.

It’s too easy to scream for gun control (which we already have) and, sadly, that has included some collegiate basketball coaches who have used the opportunity to decry gun ownership. They have shown they may know a thing or two about X’s and O’s, but just because somebody sticks a microphone in their face it does not make them an expert on every other subject.

It started with Winthrop head basketball coach Pat Kelsey, who actually was very even-keeled in addressing the Sandy Hook tragedy following his team’s loss to Ohio State, when he stated he didn’t know what needed to be done, but urged Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to “step up.” He said he didn’t know if it was a “mental health issue” or “gun issue.”

But Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim left little doubt about his stance. Apparently feeling left out of the spotlight, he opined “if one person, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots in the thing … this is our fault. This is my fault and your fault … all of your faults if we don’t go out and do something about this,” he said in pushing for some stronger form of gun control. Don’t let the fact that 30-round magazines are illegal already in many places get in the way. That didn’t deter the Sandy Hook shooter.

Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino didn’t want to be left out either, apparently. Pushing for more gun laws and echoing Boeheim’s comments where he also assailed “America’s gun culture,” Pitino was perplexed why people would not want to see their rights further infringed upon. “The fact that every single person does not want it (gun control) would be a mystery,” he said last week. “This is not the beginning of American civilization where we need guns like it’s the wild, wild West.”

 It’s too easy and simplistic to blame guns. On the same day as the Sandy Hook tragedy, a knife-wielding madman attacked and injured 21 schoolchildren in China. Those who are intent on committing mayhem and doing evil will find a means to accomplish their demented goals.  The terrorists didn’t need guns on 9-11. The only ones who will be negatively impacted by a rash rush to action will be those very citizens who abide by the already-cumbersome regulations put in place to purchase and own a handgun. It won’t stop madness.

Coaches like Boeheim and Pitino have shown they are at the top of their profession. But that does not make them enlightened or qualified to speak on much more than hoops.  In fact, their comments prove that point.

Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at