Badgers kicker becomes center of “gun controversy”



If you read the Wisconsin State Journal on a daily basis in Madison or check it out on the web you've likely seen a story titled "Gun-toting kicker misses uprights" in the past 24 hours or so. It's a story about kicker Jack Russell and it's headline is supposed to make you think that there is an evil gun loving kicker up to no good.

Congrats Tom Mulhern and the Wisconsin State Journal editorial staff, you got a cheap headline hope you are all happy . What could you possibly be talking about with that headline? I mean seriously, was a Badgers kicker caught on State Street toting a Tommy gun or brandishing a handgun and popping off a few rounds in the air in a drunken stupper?

Nope, instead Russell committed the awful "crime" of posting a picture to his personal twitter account of himself at a gun show holding and I quote from the article "what appears to be an automatic rifle." (see below)

Let's set the record straight a bit here – the ownership (by civilians) of any newly manufactured automatic weapon has been illegal since 1986, you know well before Jack Russell was even a glimmer in his parents eyes…. and even if you wanted to own an actual automatic weapon from the past you'd be jumping through more hoops than Warren Herring at the dance-off last week.

Look, we are normally here to talk purely UW sports, it's what we love, are passionate about, and it happens to be what pays the bills for Tom Mulhern.

Frankly giving you the news and opinions on what's going on around the program and more importantly what's happening on the field of play is what drives us on a daily basis. However, there comes a time when one must stand up against ignorance and sensationalism from the media – no matter what.

Personally I have a ton of respect for Mr. Mulhern, he's been a guest on our radio show, Badgers Power Hour, on more that one occasion and has been a source of help to us since our first days at our previous incarnation, however in this case he's simply ignorant of what the weapon Jack Russell holds actually is and what Wisconsin and federal law is about in reference to "automatic weapons."

First off, Mr. Mulhern, please tell me why this is an issue for you nearly a week after it was posted on his account? Is Jack Russell not allowed to hold or God forbid own what you claim to be an automatic rifle? Is Jack Russell not allowed his 1st amendment rights just because he happens to play football for Wisconsin? Or heck, his 1st amendment rights to free speech in support of his thoughts on the 2nd amendment? 

Whatever happened to Madison being the bastion of free speech and ideas? Does that now only apply to one side of the debate on guns?

So, unless you are accusing Jack Russell of holding an illegal firearm for sale at a gun show in the picture above (and any reasonable person can clearly see that gun was manufactured post 1986), what's your point? 

Is your point to shame him away from his constitutional rights as a citizen of the United States of America? Is your point to make an issue out of the 2nd amendment in light of tragedies that happened in the past year?  Is your point to show the world the evils of the "twitterverse?" 

If it's the later, fine, we should all get and understand that, but to point out a kid on a sports team that you cover for a living for his political beliefs one way or the other is simply wrong. That goes for whomever it was that asked the question in the first place too.

Unless you are willing to call out any student-athlete who expresses a political belief whether "conservative" or "liberal" when it's a "controversial" subject than why do it in this case?

There have been zero recent examples of you holding other student-athletes to the standards your words in ink and on the internent hold Russell to.

Did Russell think about the situation and make a politically correct choice in posting the picture to Twitter? No, but there's a difference between reality and politically correct and even the words of Gary Andersen prove that point: 

Andersen said he expects his players to represent UW and their families in a positive manner and urges them to consider the people who are most important to them, just before they post something and ask themselves, "Are you proud of it?"

Could one argue that Jack Russell saw nothing wrong with picking up a rifle and snapping a picture in support of the 2nd amendment because that would be how he was raised? By his actions and his captions, you bet. 

The amazing thing about living in this country is you have a right to write whatever you want if your Tom Mulhern (editor approved of course), whether rooted in reality or not, and at the same time Jack Russell has the right to own a gun – any type of gun – as long as he goes through the proper legal channels. 

However, in the face of all that has been going on since the disasters that happened in 2012 don't we all have a responsibility to do two things – educate ourselves on what specific guns are and actually do in reality so that we can have a rational and responsible debate?

It seems in this situation that Russell is the only one being responsible. He broke no laws and was practicing proper gun safety in the picture in question and was excersizing his 1st and 2nd amendment rights. Seemingly his only "crime" was holding a gun that looks scary while wearing UW gear (gear that is readily availble to the general public by the way). 

On the other hand we have a journalist who decided to prey on the fears of some and turn a law-abiding citizen, who did nothing wrong other than to wear school colors while holding a legal gun, into some sort of evil-doer with an equally evil "automatic weapon" (that he could never own to begin with and isn't an actual automatic gun either) all in the name of finding a "story."

Who's being irresponsible now? 

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site