Will the NFL Be Forced to Tackle America's Gun Debate?

As our country remains divided on numerous political perspectives, I'm one Trump voter who hopes we can get with the program on the gun debate.

Sports Illustrated recently reported that Washington State Republican Representatives Matt Shea, David Taylor and Bob McCaslin are pushing a bill that would allow licensed gun carriers to bring their firearms into stadiums. This includes CenturyLink Field, which is the home of the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks. This inconceivable proposal comes just days after the killing of former NFL player Joe McKnight as well as Sunday night’s manslaughter verdict in the murder trial of New Orleans Saints Defensive great Will Smith.

Will was my personal friend and classmate. You may recall, 29-year-old Cardell Hayes killed Will following a road-rage altercation this past April, where he claimed the ridiculous excuse of "stand your ground" – even though Will was not armed. The Louisiana stand-your-ground law is being used in this murder case as well as in the recent murder of McKnight, a former New York Jets player.

The stand-your-ground defense is commonly used in Louisiana and is also a law in about 33 states across America. This law is sometimes called “line in the sand,” or “no duty to retreat” law. It is a justification in a criminal case whereby a defendant can "stand their ground" and use otherwise unlawful force without retreating in order to protect and defend themselves or others against threats or perceived threats.

This sounds like something that is right out of a western movie. You may also recall that the stand-your-ground law was also used to acquit George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder. That served as the breaking point in the recent tensions between law enforcement and the black community. As a recent insightful article by Adrienne J. Lawrence of undefeated.com points out, the stand-your-ground law has also been known to be applied differently among blacks and whites. But let’s save that issue for another article.

So let's address a make-sense approach to upholding the Second Amendment while keeping our American sense of law and order. Can you imagine if we tried to desegregate schools in America before we ended slavery? What if we started the fight for women’s equal pay before Congress passed the bill to allow women to vote?

Would it have made sense to focus on pushing for same-sex marriage prior to striking down sodomy laws? Well the anti-gun debate in America needs to focus on a smaller battle prior to fighting the war of banning guns nationwide. That battle is the federal government putting an end to "stand your ground."

I have personally used guns as a sport since my teenage years and I still enjoy going to the gun range with my father if I get a chance. I am also a former conceal-and-carry holder as I felt like I needed it during my NFL playing days when my teammates and I were forced to deal with robberies, threats, altercations and even shootings.

But I don't see a need for any civilians to own automatic weapons and I agree that urban areas need to enforce strict gun laws when needed. Most Americans already agree than no one should complain about going through a few weeks of background checks in order to purchase a gun.

Now, the discussion of taking rifles and hunting guns away from my Minnesota buddies who live for pheasant season seems a little ridiculous, even though I couldn't personally stomach shooting an animal for sport. Responsible gun laws and the "stand-your-ground" license to kill are two different things.

As a conservative-minded black man, I just can't understand how some Americans and gun rights advocates can stomach supporting such an un-American law. Then again, we have Washington State Representatives pushing to allow firearms in stadiums where fans are drinking and altercations are already common place.

The NFL represents the strength of America. It's our most popular sport and it's a pastime that no other country can identify with. When I think of America, I think of a strong nation who puts love and opportunity first while valuing discipline, accountability and keeping our fellow Americans safe.

Supporting a stand-your-ground law, which currently applies even when the other person has no gun or deadly weapon and has not made an undeniable attempt to harm another person, is simply cowardly. And what does this represent to our brave law enforcement officers? Police are under more scrutiny now than ever while many police departments are understaffed – though they still bear the demands of patrolling areas that may be known for violence and high-crime rates.

Even with these factors, our laws overseeing police officers are much more stringent than the stand-your-ground laws that govern normal citizens, who often lack extensive gun training. Not to mention the scrutiny that police have to face in the event of an altercation with a suspect. And now the state of Washington is considering adding the burden of armed fans to the long list of law enforcement dangers.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league, please use your powerful voice to stand up to protect your players, your fans and lead our country toward gun laws that make sense. The majority of the country will agree that we don't need guns in your stadiums and we also need your leadership to take on gun rights biggest cancer: the stand-your-ground laws that are killing your players and your avid fans.

Ambassador Jack Brewer is CEO of the Brewer Group, an investment firm. Before entering finance, Brewer spent five years in the NFL holding positions with the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals. He is a graduate of  the University of Minnesota.