In Crittenton case, don’t blame guns

Gun, NBA, mother and murder never add up to good news, and so it is in the case of former Washington Wizards player Javaris Crittenton. He has been charged in the drive-by shooting murder of a mother of four. According to reports, the woman was not the intended target.

Police contend he was aiming for revenge. His jewelry had been stolen, and he had to show how hard he was and put a cap in the dude, or whatever the lingo is nowadays.

It was not long ago that the NBA figured to have dodged a bullet with Crittenton. His locker room standoff with Gilbert Arenas, after Arenas had displayed all manner of weaponry in front of his locker with a sign that said "pick one," wound up with both players suspended but tragedy avoided.

In that skirmish, which erupted over a card game, Crittenton reportedly threatened to shoot Arenas in his bad knee.

That incident, during the 2009-10 season, is too idiotic to contemplate, too beyond my daily life to comprehend and barely worthy of consideration except that the idiocy has escalated — a woman is dead. All of which might have been avoided if the NBA had focused on the real problem.

Instead, The Association focused on the guns.

The mistake we made then was making it about the guns. Even NBA commish David Stern, whose response in hindsight saved the league an ugly embarrassment at best and a body bag in one of his locker rooms at worst, said, "The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us."

See how we do that? The guns become the problem, allowing us to ignore the real issue. The NBA’s problem was not guns in the locker rooms; it was the idiots.

Full disclosure: I am a strong supporter of the NRA. Not because I own a gun. I do not. Mine is a belief in the Second Amendment and the total unwillingness to give back any rights enumerated to me by the Constitution simply because nobody is willing to discuss the real issues.

Having lived in Texas for almost 15 years, I know people with guns, people who use their guns to shoot deer and ducks and quail and doves. You know how you can tell real gun lovers? They rarely show you their guns — and never in anger or to prove a point. People who really love guns respect them, respect their danger.

Someone will probably say I do not understand how Crittenton grew up, the lifestyle or the need to go back hard at those who challenge your name. I do not.

Nor do I understand how these little incidents — which to me feel like nothing, or so minuscule — escalate into such violence with everybody brandishing their weapons of choice. Even less so when the participants are flying around on jets to play games and being paid millions (and many, many millions in Arenas’ case).

I do this not to compare Arenas and Crittenton. I know neither personally. But Arenas, by all accounts, took a joke too far and had no idea whom he was dealing with. Meanwhile, Crittenton, if the charges are true, sounds very much like these little assassins destroying so many neighborhoods.

That this stuff happens in both worlds — life and the NBA — suggests a larger conversation is needed about what protecting your name really means. And how great would it be if NBA players led it? Because protecting your name, no matter your race, gender or socioeconomic status, is about doing only things that would make your momma proud, about raising the kids who inherit that name, about being an example, not a statistic.

I know I do not understand the mindset. And do not think I am not keenly aware of the dangers of my lily-white butt lecturing on the need for conversation about something I might never be able to understand.

Watching “The Wire” did not make me an expert on the plight of some inner-city neighborhoods. The safer thing would be to write about how the NBA dodged a bullet or, better yet, about how the Detroit Lions are going to be good this year. (And I believe they will be.)

Nobody will call you a racist for that, and I probably would have left this alone if a mother hadn’t been killed, possibly by an ex-NBA player with a gun. And the only word we seem capable of debating is the inanimate one.

So we pretend the problem is the gun and have the same tired arguments about restricting the right to bear arms, ignoring that guns do not kill people, idiots do. What we really need to do is open a dialogue about the idiocy of this culture of protecting one’s name.