The tragic murder of Kasandra Perkins at the hands of her boyfriend and professional football player Jovan Belcher was more than preventable, it was the product of a culture that refuses to treat domestic violence as the public health emergency that it is, choosing instead to coddle and fetishize a gun culture that makes such deaths commonplace. Don’t believe me? Consider the facts:
The number one cause of death for African American women like Kasandra Perkins is homicide at the hands of a partner. Family and intimate assaults involving a firearm were 12 times more likely to result in death than non-firearm associated assaults between family and intimates.
• More than 12 times as many females were murdered by a male they knew (1,689 victims) than were killed by male strangers (137 victims).
• Almost a thousand female victims were wives or intimate acquaintances of their killers.
• More female homicides were committed with firearms (52 percent) than with all other weapons combined. Of these, three quarters were committed with handguns.
And while we’ve lost 6,614 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the same period of time 11,766 women were killed as the result of domestic violence in this country.
Those are the facts.
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Yet despite these facts, here’s the narrative of Perkins’ murder as it unfolded over the weekend and through today. Belcher, who shot the mother of his child in their home, with their daughter present and in the next room was a “happy, proud, father,” a “family guy” who was clearly pushed to the edge by Perkins who one outlet described as a “catalyst” in her own murder.
Then came the explaining. Belcher must have a head injury, a concussion, some kind of diagnosis that would explain why this lovable family man pumped nine gun shots into the body of a woman he claimed to love. I’m not the first to point this out, but funny how that concussion, or whatever injury didn’t result in Belcher shooting and killing his own mother who was in the next room when he murdered Perkins. Funny how Belcher managed to not turn the gun on his coaches or the security guard at the stadium before he killed himself.
It couldn’t be that Belcher was an abuser and easy access to guns is the reason he killed Perkins. Of course not. And when, during halftime of NBC’s Sunday night football game just after the murder-suicide, NFL commentator Bob Costas endorsed part of a column written by sportswriter Jason Whitlock that rightly blamed gun culture for both Perkins’ and Belcher’s deaths, predictably the right went nuts.
Costas said: ” ‘Our current gun culture,” Whitlock wrote, ‘ensures that more and more domestic disputes will end in the ultimate tragedy, and that more convenience-store confrontations over loud music coming from a car will leave more teenage boys bloodied and dead.’ ” Costas later added: ” ‘But here,’ wrote Jason Whitlock, ‘is what I believe: If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.’ ”
Media Matters for America has this synopsis:
Fox News’ Fox & Friends repeatedly questioned whether it was “appropriate” for Costas to be “lecturing America on gun control.” Other right-wing sites including the Drudge Report, Fox Nation, and the Washington Free Beacon also attacked Costas, railing against what they described as Costas’ “gun control rant.”
For the right, there is never an “appropriate” time to talk about gun violence or domestic violence, a reality the National Football League must be counting on given that this year alone of the 32 teams in the NFL, 21 have had at least one player who’s been charged with either domestic violence or sexual assault.
Like the NFL, the National Rifle Association has its own agenda its pushing at the expense of women’s lives. “Up until the moment Javon Belcher executed Kasandra Perkins in front of her mother with a handgun, he was precisely the type of ‘law-abiding gun owner’ that the National Rifle Association loves to portray as infallible.” said Ladd Everitt, Director of Communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “Had anyone questioned Belcher’s mental state – about which we will certainly learn more in the days to come – the NRA would have been the first to tell us that Belcher’s guns were none of our business and certain to make both him and those around him safer.”
The reality is gun culture depends on, and is built upon, open misogyny. It’s what fueled the immediate victim-blaming of Perkins, the eulogizing of Belcher, and the reason the single-greatest threat young African-American women face is death at the hands of a partner.
Was Perkins’ death preventable? Absolutely. Will this country get serious about preventing another senseless homicide thanks to easy access to guns? That’s a much more difficult question. “Americans frequently struggle with mental health issues and when they do, firearms are readily available” said Everitt. “Only an involuntarily commitment or adjudication by a court as a ‘mental defective’ prohibits one from buying a gun based on mental health background. What percentage of severely mentally ill Americans fall into either of these two narrow categories?”
Clearly not Belcher, which is exactly how the NRA and other domestic violence apologists intend it to be.