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News & Editorials

Fatality fumble: Football kills as many students as school shootings

Press Release from the Libertarian Party,


WASHINGTON, DC -- High school football killed as many students last year as did guns -- which means politicians should either stop using school shootings as an excuse to attack the Second Amendment or start passing "football control" laws, the Libertarian Party said today.

"According to the latest statistics, a football is as deadly as a gun," said Steve Dasbach, the party's national director. "So why do first downs continue to be exalted while the Second Amendment continues to be vilified?"

A new study from the National School Safety Center (NSSC) reported that there were 15 "school-associated deaths" caused by violent crime -- including guns -- during the 1999-2000 school year.

That number is unchanged from the 1998-1999 school year, when 15 students were killed by guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have been zero student gun deaths so far during this school year.

By comparison, 15 high school football players died during regular season and playoff games in 1999, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Another 11 athletes have died in high school games and practices since late August of this year -- and that number is expected to rise during playoffs. In addition, another 29 players this year have suffered "catastrophic injuries" on the field, leaving them paralyzed or seriously disabled.

These numbers have Libertarians wondering: Given the carnage on our nation's high school football fields, why the outcry about guns -- and the utter silence about football fatalities?

"When 15 students are tragically killed by guns during a school year, every politician and anti-gun lobbying group expresses practiced outrage, and immediately demands new laws that infringe on the Second Amendment," said Dasbach. "But when 15 students are tragically killed by football, the silence is deafening.

"If the preventable death of any young person is a tragedy -- and it is -- then why wasn't there a Million Mom March demanding an end to high school football? Why no calls from Bill Clinton for 'reasonable' football control laws? Why no saturation media coverage as dead football players are carried off the field in stretchers? Why no class-action lawsuits against Spaulding for manufacturing cheap Saturday Night Special footballs?

"Could it be that politicians get more yardage attacking guns than attacking football?"

This "outrage gap" is especially puzzling, said Dasbach, because the Constitution doesn't guarantee an explicit right to "keep and bear" footballs.

"Football is nothing more than entertainment and sport. Guns are a Constitutionally protected civil right," he said. "While every new gun-control law triggers a fight about the scope of the Second Amendment, football has no such protection.

"If he wanted to, President Clinton could lobby for an absolute ban on high school football, in order to save the lives of 15 young people every year. The fact that he doesn't, and the fact that groups like Handgun Control, Inc. don't demand such legislation, reveals that their real motive is not to save lives, but to advance an anti-gun political agenda."

Of course, Libertarians wouldn't support a ban on football any more than they support a ban on guns, said Dasbach.

"Protecting the lives of young people who play high school football is the job of parents, school officials, and coaches, not politicians," he said. "And protecting the Second Amendment is the job of every American, since so many politicians have fumbled their duty to defend the fundamental human rights -- including the right to keep and bear arms -- guaranteed in the Constitution."


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For, in principle, there is no difference between a law prohibiting the wearing of concealed arms, and a law forbidding the wearing such as are exposed; and if the former be unconstitutional, the latter must be so likewise. But it should not be forgotten, that it is not only a part of the right that is secured by the constitution; it is the right entire and complete, as it existed at the adoption of the constitution; and if any portion of that right be impaired, immaterial how small the part may be, and immaterial the order of time at which it be done, it is equally forbidden by the constitution. [Bliss vs. Commonwealth, 12 Ky. (2 Litt.) 90, at 92, and 93, 13 Am. Dec. 251 (1822)

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