The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Pack Responsibly


The Sean Taylor, Richard Collier and now Plaxico Burress incidents bring to light a societal question of the role of hand guns in the NFL. As with any question which pertains to a dangerous activity in a free society, with a Second Amendment right to bear arms dating back to our founding fathers, there will be strong opinions on both sides of this issue. The reality is that NFL players should be afforded the same rights and privileges as all citizens, so long as they abide by all laws and rules of society. Players should also understand their unique position in society and must takes all steps available to them to educate themselves as to the laws of hand guns for each jurisdiction they may live in, play in and travel to as well as all aspects of hand gun safety and protection.

A gun by definition is a dangerous weapon and must be treated accordingly. Players have the same right to posses hand guns as all citizens. However, the mere possession of such a weapon may also increase the danger to the player and those around them (see the unfortunate death of Brian Blades' nephew a decade ago). It is also important for players to understand the legal and moral ramifications of carrying a hand gun. It raises the level of danger. It is important for all people who buy, carry and maintain guns to be educated and trained in the safe utilization of a dangerous weapon. This requirement falls not just to the player but to their employers (i.e. the teams and leagues), their legal representatives, their family and friends. But if a player feels the need to own a gun then he needs to know how to do so legally, without endangering himself or the public. Ignorance is no defense.

Another element in this equation is common sense. If a player like a Plaxico Burress feels the need for his own safety to carry a gun to a night club or otherwise similar establishment, it begs the question why is he going to the establishment in the first place? If a citizen truly fears for his safety at a place of enjoyment, then why is he or she even frequenting such a place? Common sense says stay home, or go somewhere that is a safe.

A good agent can never stop a grown adult from making mistakes, but they certainly can help grown adult clients make knowledgeable, educated and informed decisions in the hope of preventing unnecessary situations.

The reality of the Plaxico Burress situation is that it could have easily been avoided at many levels. Mr. Burress should have known and been instructed prior to purchasing the weapon of the legal, moral and actual consequences that come with ownership. He then should have known the licensing requirements in each jurisdiction he planned to take the weapon and then should have been properly trained to handle the weapon. Had any of these steps occurred, then the incident in question would never have happened and he would not be facing both jail time and the end of his career.

It is a shame when anyone is injured. It is even more so when the entire episode could have been easily avoided. When you have the privilege of earning the salary that these players earn, to play a sport they love, along with that money comes greater responsibility to society. A responsibility to be the best citizen you can possibly be, because there are children out there who want to be just like you. In most cases in the NFL that is a good thing. In the case of Mr. Burress, it is downright scary.

By Peter Schaffer  |  December 3, 2008; 1:11 PM ET  | Category:  Crime , NFL , Plaxico Burress Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Ironically, New York City's draconian licensing requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon may have contributed to this acident. If Mr. Burress had obtained a license in the way that they are issued to adults in 40 other states, he would have been required to take a course in gun safety, and he would have learned that the way he was carrying his gun was extremely dangerous.

Posted by: Turk Turon | December 3, 2008 2:34 PM

Re: Turk Turon. Yes, if only it took less effort to get a concealed weapons permit in NY, Burress would be better prepared. Remember, it's always the fault of Big Government.

Posted by: Reason | December 3, 2008 3:43 PM

Turk: Except Mr. Burress reportedly had a concealed carry permit in Florida, which expired only this past May. This means he should have known better than to (1) take a gun into NYC without a proper license (2) take it into a bar and then (3) shoot himself with it. That he did all of these things says as much about Florida's weak permitting system as it does about Mr. Burress's apparent lack of judgment. New York City is right to be tough on handing out concealed carry licenses within its borders - clearly not everyone is competent enough to handle that responsibility.

Doug Pennington

Posted by: Doug Pennington | December 3, 2008 5:12 PM

"If a citizen truly fears for his safety at a place of enjoyment, then why is he or she even frequenting such a place? Common sense says stay home, or go somewhere that is a safe."

...common sense also says that when you need protection, you get it and keep it, and not worry about gun laws written by those who don't need to carry guns and who would have no problem getting a permit when they wanted one.

The reality is that life is somewhere in the middle. A person who lives under the constant threat of robbery, kidnapping and assault is not safe anywhere, really. I think that Buress exacerbated the situation by going to a nightclub...sure he has the right to go to one and certainly you can't expect that he would never want to go to one, but carrying an unlicensed gun into a nightclub is just stupid. But the same threat exists outside the nightclub just as it does inside the nightclub. The fact is that he probably needs the protection, and as such he should deal with that rationally. I just would not want to be such a high-profile target, and that raises the bigger question of whether pro sports have taken athletes to an unsafe level altogether.

But ask the same question of any Hollywood star and what do you get? Does Keanu Reeves not have to worry about some crazy person shooting at him because of his roles in the Matrix movies, Schwarznegger because of his Terminator roles...whatever? What bout actresses with all these papaparazzi that follow them, they have stalkers left and right to deal long before one of them is kidnapped? This is true, first they must find "a safe harbor" that includes carrying personal defense. We cannot deny the risks that they face. But the main thing is here, don't bring trouble on yourself. Plenty of registered gun owners have discharged their weapons accidentally injuring themselves and others, so that's going to happen, it will happen again. But you just can't do it *illegally* when there is such an obvious need to carry a firearm, you really just have to do it the right way. There's just no excuse not to.

Posted by: jfc1 | December 3, 2008 11:17 PM

The man is a complete idiot, I appreciate all the comments on guns again but on the subject of Burress you have a man who has no common sense at all, if it wasn't a gun it would be something else DUI, assault, he was just an accident waiting to happen.
What the league should be doing is pointing out to their players that they are no better or worse than anyone else they just got lucky. they have a job that pays well, but it doesn't make them above the law and it certainly doesn't automatically bless you with some brains.They should all be required to spend a month with some CEO of a corporation that makes the same salary and see how they handle themselves. I doubt they would be hanging out in some dangerous nightclub or buying the bling they might just learn something

Posted by: ease99 | December 4, 2008 7:59 AM

Thanks, Peter, for a well-thought out article. If only your commenters were capable of the same.

LOL! If Burress' accident "says something" about Florida's fairly-administered concealed handgun permit system (unlike NYC's completely arbitrary and capricious permit system), then I guess any incident of a law enforcement officer accidentally shooting themselves (like the infamous DEA agent who did so during a presentation at an elementary school, to name just one example) must also then "say something" about the "weak training" of American law enforcement. And for the record, Burress did NOT have a legal Florida permit at the time of his accident.

Posted by: K-Romulus | December 4, 2008 11:05 AM

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