"What I believe is, if he didn't possess/own a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today."
Those are the words former Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock wrote in his Fox Sports column following the murder-suicide perpetrated Saturday morning by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher.
When NBC sportscaster Bob Costas paraphrased Whitlock's column at halftime of an NFL game Sunday night, he ignited a national controversy because he dared to, as Whitlock did, put some of the blame on America's out-of-control "gun culture."
Costas was right.
In today's zero sum political world, where compromise is seen as a four-letter word, and social media reactions are the currency of the day, it's difficult for people like Costas, and Whitlock, to have a rational conversation about tragedy and turn it into something that truly puts the deaths of Perkins and Belcher in perspective.
But it is the very combination of guns and domestic violence that must be the focus of that rational conversation, if it's perspective that we seek.
Because Whitlock hit the nail on the head: Perkins' death was made more likely because of the presence of a gun.
A 2003 study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that women with guns in their homes were three times more likely to be murdered than women who lived in homes with no guns.
In 2010, the last year for which full statistics are available, 1,800 women in the U.S. were murdered by men, with 94 percent of those murders being identified as related to domestic violence, according to an annual report by the Violence Policy Center. More than half of those murders came at the hands of a firearm.
So, when it comes to finding that perspective, what can be done, if not talking about the combination of guns and violence?
The federal government addressed the issue in the 1990s by passing two laws that limit the availability of firearms to people who have been convicted of a domestic violence offense or are subject to a full order of protection issued by a judge.
Such laws, however, are much more effective if passed by states, where most domestic violence laws are enforced. More than two-dozen states have passed laws giving law enforcement some authority to remove guns from domestic violence situations.
But not all.
The influence of the National Rifle Association is so strong that just saying the word "gun" in the Capitol practically sets off red, blinking lights and sirens. It's why even committed domestic violence advocates like Colleen Coble, director of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, haven't pushed the issue, instead focusing on minor victories like the one in 2011 that gave judges more discretion in enforcing orders that might keep guns from perpetrators of domestic violence.
Our politicians and leaders instinctively recoil because a smart man like Bob Costas dares to mutter the word "gun." That's the power of the gun lobby. That's how far removed from reality we have become.
Kasandra Perkins is dead. Nothing we say or do now will change that.
She and her boyfriend had been arguing, about money, about life.
"In 2010 there were 313 women shot and killed by their husbands or intimate acquaintances in single victim/single offender incidents during the course of an argument," wrote the authors of the Violence Policy Center's annual report "When Men Murder Women."
The names of the other victims don't come to mind immediately because most of them weren't the wives or girlfriends of NFL football players.
"The likelihood of lethality is increased in cases of domestic violence when there is a gun involved," Coble said.
That's not speculation. That's not somebody focusing on the "wrong" issue.
It's a simple, cold-blooded fact.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH