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NBA players defend right to own guns

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The Canadian Press
1/4/2010 10:58:46 AM
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Not only have David Stern's pleas to leave the guns at home been ignored, one player even brought his to work.

The commissioner could hand Gilbert Arenas a severe punishment whenever he decides to take action, but it seems clear Stern can't convince NBA players not to carry firearms.

As far as they're concerned, players have the right -- and maybe even the need -- to own weapons, as long as they're doing it legally.

"We're grown men. We protect our families. We protect our homes," said Knicks guard Larry Hughes, who isn't licensed to own a gun. "Whatever the case may be, whoever is bearing arms, I hope everything is done, you know, legally, but you have that right."

Arenas violated NBA rules by bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker-room -- The New York Post reported he and Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton drew on each other there -- but he's far from the only player owning weapons.

New Jersey Nets guard Devin Harris told reporters he believed as many as 75 per cent of the league's players own guns.

"I don't know because I don't know every guy in the NBA. I don't know what every guy personally has," Indiana Pacers guard T.J. Ford said. "As a society, I think a lot of people have protection within their home. But I don't think it's just an NBA thing. It's just a lot of regular people have protection in their home.

"Obviously it's not a problem if you have a licence to carry a weapon. I think that's the ultimate key. If you have a licence, can't nobody dispute the reason why you have a gun."

Ford owns a gun but said he doesn't carry it outside his home, a policy Stern prefers all players take. The commissioner called the issue of players carrying guns an "alarming subject" in October 2006, adding "that although you'll read players saying how they feel safer with guns, in fact those guns actually make them less safe."

That came about three weeks after Stephen Jackson, then with the Indiana Pacers, shot a gun in the air outside an Indianapolis strip club, telling police it was in self-defence.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh was running the Pacers then, and he shares Stern's concerns about players travelling with guns.

"It's definitely something the league has directed itself to because they feel it is a problem. And if you look around, there's different instances where you find out it is a problem," Walsh said. "It's an issue. And normally I'm not for guns or against guns, but pro players, I think they put themselves in a tough position."

Jackson said he stopped carrying a gun after the trouble it caused. Former teammate Al Harrington, who keeps guns at his home but said they aren't loaded, suspects there are some players who still go out with them, but added they should travel with security instead.

LeBron James said he doesn't even need that, but makes certain his family is protected.

"I live in Akron, Ohio, which is my hometown, so I don't need security," said James, who didn't say if he owned a gun. "I don't travel with security. Only thing I do is continue to make sure my family is always safe."

Many players apparently feel that's best done with a gun. When Scottie Pippen was arrested in 1994 for having a loaded semiautomatic pistol in his car in Chicago, coach Phil Jackson talked to his Bulls players and found that "quite a few" had guns.

So he discussed with them, as he's done with the Lakers, the rules of owning and registering guns, but still believes players will carry them no matter what.

"I have the sense that this is an environment that's come out of a lot of the kids' past," Jackson said. "Not only that, they've had situations that have happened in their own personal lives that makes them feel that it warrants it, but my message is it attracts violence. There's no doubt about it, and the violence that happens around guns is death usually."

Still, Stern could hand out multiple punishments for carrying guns. Besides the Arenas situation, the league is also monitoring the case involving Cleveland's Delonte West, who was arrested in Maryland after officers pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle while carrying two loaded handguns and a loaded shotgun in a guitar case.

Stern will likely wait until the legal process is complete before handing down penalties, but he could rule on Arenas now since league rules were broken in that instance.

At the NBA's request, the firearms language was bolstered during collective bargaining in 2005. Players are subject to discipline if they bring guns to the arena or practice facility, or even an offsite promotional appearance. The league's rookie transition program also includes a segment on possessing weapons.

Walsh said when it comes to players going out with guns: "You don't need them, and if you have them, you have a better chance of something happening then if you don't have them."

But Ford says, "You can't tell somebody how to protect their family."

"It's not an athlete thing, it's just a family thing," he added. "There's a lot of people that have weapons. I don't think they should be making it like it's just athletes that have weapons."

Gilbert Arenas (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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