Former NBA star Karl Malone is an avid hunter who publicly declared his advocacy of the right to bear arms by becoming a spokesman for the National Rifle Association. SI.com asked Malone for his thoughts on the situation involving three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas, who acknowledged Monday that he stored unloaded guns at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., and said he displayed them in front of Wizards teammate as "a misguided effort to play a joke."
The report that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had allegedly pulled guns on each other was one of the worst things I've ever seen come across the TV. All the years I played, I've never heard of anything like this alleged incident or of a player bringing guns into the locker room. Doing that in the locker room, with so much that can happen? It's one of those things you just don't do. I can't make any sense of that. You can't tell me one good thing that can happen with a gun in an arena, but I can tell you a thousand bad things.
If I'm a player on that team, of course, I'm saying to those guys, "What the hell are you doing?" Even if, as Arenas insists, he brought the guns to the arena because he wanted them away from his children at home, I wouldn't have bought that excuse. Buy a safe. Put them in there. End of story.
The NBA can't sweep something like that under the rug. To me, this is another example of a dark cloud that we can never seem to get over. When I say "we," I mean the NBA. I'm still an NBA player; I'm just retired. The amazing thing to me is, it seems just when the league has a little bit of positivity, then we have one big negative and it reflects on all the players. Now people think every NBA player is carrying firearms into the locker room. I guess the next thing is that instead of us walking around those metal detectors in arenas, we should start walking through them. So many kids are doing it the right way in the league, but you get linked with one guy making one mistake.
This is bigger than a guns-in-the-locker-room story, because supposedly the alleged altercation stemmed from a gambling debt. I used to play cards with teammates, and you're not just playing for the sake of it. You're playing for money, but I never won or lost to the point I was angry with my teammates and wanted to fight or pull a gun.
With regard to discipline, commissioner David Stern is the only one who can attempt to fix this, and he has to be the one to make the statement -- in the same way that Roger Goodell treats disciplinary situations with the NFL. I absolutely love the way Goodell handles things. I know people don't really like what Goodell has done in certain cases, but they respect him because he'll tell you why he did it. I don't want to seem like I'm bashing Stern, because I'm not, but that's what people want to see.
I don't want to see Arenas made an example of, but this is not just a minor situation, and if we say that, it's ridiculous. This is one of those times that the league needs to say, "We will not condone this." Guys need to be proud of being an NBA player. Being in the NBA is a great thing. The league owes us nothing. We owe what we have to the NBA. Take your job seriously, have a sense of urgency to get people back in the stands. People are waiting to see how the commissioner handles it. They don't want to hear from anyone but him.
I like Arenas, but his initial reaction to this, in which he downplayed the seriousness of having guns in the locker room, was all wrong. It's wrong to make light of a firearm. That's when mistakes are made. 'Fess up, and don't blow it off like it wasn't a mistake. Say, "I made a terrible mistake with a gun. I need to make it right." This is nothing to be laughing about.
Once again, gun owners get a bad rap. We're good people; we're not back in the Old West. I got my first gun when I was 8 years old -- an old .410 single shot. I've been around them all the time ever since, and I'm a member of the NRA. I love guns, and I respect guns. I have them in a secure place. When I was in Utah, I took all the necessary training with the gun and had my concealed-weapons permit, and I'll be the first to tell you I don't go anywhere in my vehicle without my weapon, but at no point has it ever occurred to me to take it inside anywhere, let alone an arena.
Unfortunately, we always hear bad things about guns. But guns don't kill people -- people kill people. I'm not saying that everybody should have guns, but I will tell you this: If you're willing to go through the training and proper procedure to have guns, then they're fine.
But if I were a gun dealer and somebody walked in and said, "I want this for protection," I don't know if I would sell it to that person, because that person's only thinking about another confrontation. The people who get threatened or cut off in their car and think about their guns are the people who don't need a gun. My grandfather, Leonard Jackson, once told me, "Karl, remember this, son: If you ever pull a gun, be prepared to fire that gun, because the person you pull that gun on has every right to pull a gun on you." He told me that when I was 6 and I didn't even have a gun yet.
The big picture is that guns won't protect you. If someone really wanted to get you, they would. If you still feel you need that protection, get yourself a bodyguard who knows the rules and knows the laws. How about you do all of that before you even consider having a gun? For you to say you need a gun for your protection? My goodness gracious, how are you living that you need that? I don't know where all these guys grew up, or who wants to do something to them, but be honest about why you want it. If you need a gun for that, that's for all the wrong reasons and something bad will come from it.
If I seem a little fired up, I am. It's a privilege to own a firearm and I take offense when people don't handle their business the right way.