Why Jim Boeheim celebrated 900th win with a gun control speech

Jim Boeheim notched his 900th win as a Division 1 basketball coach. But Boeheim used the moment to advocate for tougher gun laws.

(AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli)
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, joined by his wife, Julie, is presented with a jersey for his 900th career win, after Syracuse defeated Detroit 72-68 in an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. Afterward, Boeheim gave an ardent pitch for tougher gun laws.

College sports and the gun control debate don't often share the same forum.

But Syracuse University head basketball coach Jim Boeheim used his moment in the spotlight to call for more gun controls, specifically on assault rifles.

At a press conference Monday following his 900th career win, only the third NCAA Division 1 coach to reach this mark, Boeheim took aim at US gun laws.

“This will probably offend some people,’’ Boeheim said, according to The Post Standard in Syracuse. “If we in this country as Americans cannot get the people that represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society. I’m a hunter. I’ve hunted. I’m not talking about rifles. That’s fine. If one person in this world; the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots in the thing. This is our fault. This is my fault and your fault. All of your faults if we don’t get out and do something about this.’’

His comments, three days after 20 children and 6 adults were gunned down in Newtown, Conn., drew applause from the Syracuse Orange fans in attendance. Boeheim went on to criticize a local politician for saying that more guns, in the hands of teachers, were needed. And Boeheim endorsed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's calls for more gun control.

As co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, on Monday Bloomberg called for three gun control proposals to be passed by Congress: an assault weapons ban, upgrading gun trafficking to a felony, and the "Fix Gun Checks Act" –  requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales. "Somehow or another, we've come to think getting reelected is more important than saving lives," Bloomberg said, according to CBS News.

At his press conference, Boeheim concluded: “This is about us. This isn’t about the President or those other people down there (in Washington D.C.). We have to make them understand somehow that this needs to get figured out. Real quick. Not six months from now.’’

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association, which boasts 4.3 million members and one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the US, has been silent in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. In the past, the NRA has responded quickly to gun control calls after these kinds of shootings.

And as noted in this AP article: "its well-funded efforts to oppose gun control laws have proven resilient. Firearms are in a third or more of US households, and suspicion runs deep of an overbearing government whenever it proposes expanding federal authority. The argument of gun-rights advocates that firearm ownership is a bedrock freedom as well as a necessary option for self-defense has proved persuasive enough to dampen political enthusiasm for substantial change."

Given the strong emotions surrounding the deaths of the children and teachers in Sandy Hook, the NRA may be taking a tactical pause.

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