Ja Morant.jpg

Ja Morant

Ja Morant is in danger…

So, I was in 4th grade at FAMU High School (K-12) the first time that my mother mentioned that back when she was a 10th grade student at the same institution, that one of her good girlfriends, out on a double date at the segregated drive-in movie theater on Tallahassee's Southside, accidentally shot herself to death while playing around with a firearm that her date had in his car's glove compartment for protection.  

Five years later, when I was a 9th grader, a friend of mine who attended our rival school, Rickards High, was accidentally shot and killed by his best friend, a then ninth grade student at Lincoln High who would later become one of my good friends when he transferred to FAMU High prior to our 10th grade year. 

Backtracking to elementary school, when my family moved to Tallahassee I soon learned that my maternal male relatives in North Florida were all avid hunters, and I was still in the single digits age wise the first time I joined them on the hunt along with my father, an active duty military officer who spent ample time training me on firearms safety and maintenance before allowing me to join the elders while carrying his .22 rifle. I still remember the first time that I saw what those shotguns and rifles could do to animal flesh in the woods and even as a boy, I was alert enough to understand that the same could happen to human flesh upon being shot. 

Now, while I am not the type of person that you will ever see boasting about what weapons I own or how many deer, rabbits, or squirrels I've bagged during my lifetime, suffice it to say that I do believe in the right to bear arms per the Second Amendment of the Constitution. And though I am at odds with some Second Amendment enthusiasts due to my belief that certain weapons, like AR-15's, should be heavily regulated, I still believe that responsible Americans should be able to protect themselves with firearms. 

My thoughts on this matter inform my opinion about NBA superstar Ja Morant, the sublimely talented point guard who can't seem to help brandishing firearms and on at least one occasion, supposedly pointing his weapon at a 17-year old kid following a pickup basketball game dispute at his home. Lest we forget that Morant has faced allegations that he carried his weapon onto the team plane, which runs contrary to FAA and NBA rules and this past weekend, showed extremely poor judgment during an irresponsible moment of dancing with a firearm on a video that has since gone viral (below).

We all know that Morant, 23, is a $200 million dollar man, one whose skills could earn him billions of dollars on the court and via endorsements if he doesn't throw it all away. But that's just the point, he is surely at risk of throwing it all away if he can't figure it out really quickly that there is a time, place, and manner for everything under the sun and when it comes to firearms, he is violating all of the above to his own detriment. 

Now, Ja Morant has not been convicted of any felony offenses, thus, he has a right to bear arms the same as any of us. But as my father taught me, and his father before him instructed as well, a firearm is not a toy, and safety is paramount if one is to own a weapon that WILL kill if not handled with the utmost care. 

Over the past two days, many critics have raised the issue that Morant is a Black kid that grew up with both parents and wasn't raised as a "thug," but is one who surely is embracing the "Thug Life" as an adult. I don't personally know the young man so I can't make that judgment, however plausible or likely that such opinions are factual. 

What I do know from personal experience is that Memphis is a beautiful city—but just like any major metropolitan area, it has its share of rough areas where one would be wise to pack heat for protection, or, exercise the wisdom that so many young men Morant's age seem to lack—which is to stay away from completely!

What Ja Morant and millions of other young men his age don't realize is that there are lifelong consequences to playing around or intentionally using a firearm to kill another human being. Long ago in jails and courtrooms across the South, I learned what they don't show in movies like Menace II Society or Boyz 'N the Hood, which is that many of the hardest gang bangers cry REAL tears—I'm talking snot coming out their noses with loud wails and screams for their mommas—when they realize that they are facing life without parole or the executioner's chamber after pulling those triggers and ending another person's life. 

And for those who kill by accident, while they may not go to prison for life, they spend the rest of their lives haunted by the sound of their firearm expelling a projectile into the flesh of a friend or family member who exists no more due to their reckless mistake. 

Again, I don't know Ja Morant and can't tell whether he is a reckless 23-year old manchild who, like every man who was once a 23-year old, is still prone to do dumb stuff—or whether he really and truly just wants to be a gangsta?

I don't know…

But what I do know is that if Morant isn't careful, that there is nothing that the NBA, the Memphis Grizzlies, his family, or his friends will be able to do to help him if he accidentally shoots someone (or himself). Or, more ominously, if he should find himself facing off with the real boys from the hood who will pull his card to see if he is really about that gunplay life.

My prayers are with him…

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Chuck Hobbs is a freelance journalist who won the 2010 Florida Bar Media Award and has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary.

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