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Wednesday, Dec 12 2012 11:00 PM

MIKE BUTLER: Hey, Costas, how about alcohol? It's responsible for tragedy, too

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    Mike Butler

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After his recent soapbox performance decrying the evils of guns and the "current gun culture" in this country, I would expect NBC sportscaster Bob Costas to use the same line of reasoning about the traffic fatality involving Jerry Brown and Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys as he did the previous week following the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher of the Kansas City Chiefs -- but in this case, concerning alcohol.

In 2010, the latest year for which detailed statistics are available, there were 12,996 murders in the U.S. Of those, 8,775 were caused by firearms. There were 18,735 suicides in which a firearm was used.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in 2010, there were 10,228 people killed in alcohol-related car accidents, 211 of those were children under the age of 14. Alcohol-related car accidents kill more people between the ages of 17 and 34 than any other cause. Additionally, there are more than 23,000 deaths related to alcohol each year that are not traffic fatalities or homicides. Adding these totals to just the total number of drunken driving fatalities alone, we see that nearly 47,000 deaths occur result from alcohol-related causes.

According to the World Health organization, worldwide, alcohol is responsible for more deaths than AIDS, tuberculosis or violence.

Though statistics show that alcohol is a much greater problem than firearms, not only in this country, but worldwide, few people want to decry the evils of our current culture of alcohol consumption. Instead, they have embraced a philosophy of education, and guess what? It is working. Through education and awareness, in 2008 drunken driving fatalities had decreased by nearly 50 percent since 1982 and appears to continue dropping.

Our current "gun culture," which includes a vast majority of responsible gun owners, is not to blame for the murders and suicides where firearms are used; it is instead irresponsible people making irresponsible decisions who should have the finger pointed at them. If we were to use the same line of reasoning, we would blame the vast majority of responsible consumers of alcohol for the senseless deaths of the innocent at the hands of those irresponsible people who made irresponsible decisions to drink and drive.

I would venture to say that most people who are in favor of strict gun control know at least one person who is a gun owner, and I would theorize that it is highly likely that the gun owner(s) they know is very responsible and doesn't go out threatening the safety of people in the community with their guns through irresponsible behavior. However, I would also venture to say that most of those in favor of strict gun control also know at least one person who consumes alcohol, and I would theorize that at least one of the people they know who consumes alcohol has, at one time or another, driven while under the influence, thus placing at risk the safety of the very people in the community they wish to protect from guns. In fact, it is highly likely that at least one of those people they know who has driven under the influence can be seen in the mirror every morning.

So why wasn't Bob Costas, who substantially based his comments on a Fox Sports column by Jason Whitlock, talking about the culture of alcohol consumption as being ultimately responsible for the death of Jerry Brown?

Statistics prove out that the culture of alcohol consumption is responsible for far more domestic disputes and convenience store confrontations than the current gun culture. According to a review on the relationship between alcohol and homicide by Murdoch, Phil and Ross: "Data from the United States suggests that about 30 percent of assaults involve alcohol (without other drugs) and 40 to 50 percent of violent crimes involve alcohol or a combination of alcohol and drugs."

Should we have tighter regulations on alcohol? Perhaps we should ban its purchase for consumption at home and only serve alcohol from bars and restaurants where we can control its consumption. Now wouldn't that cause an uprising in this country?

I wonder if Costas can look in a mirror and say with all sincerity, "I have never drank irresponsibly nor gotten behind the wheel while even slightly impaired." If he can't, then I would say that his stand on gun control is completely hypocritical.

Mike Butler of Bakersfield is owner and president of New Options Career Training and Development, a customized employment training program for adults with developmental disabilities. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words. The Californian reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.

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