When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, has been charged with murder for shooting his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, early this morning. While initial reports suggested that the 26-year-old athlete had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar, the BBC reported that authorities were skeptical: "Police say neighbours heard screaming and shouting around the time of the shooting, and that they had been called to investigate incidents of a domestic nature at the same house in the past."
(Following the shooting, Nike pulled a South African TV ad featuring Pistorius and the tagline "I am the bullet in the chamber.")
The shooting is the most high-profile case from a country that, like the United States, has recently grappled with the impact of its well-established gun culture. Interestingly, firearms are not mentioned in the South African constitution, and a tough gun control law was passed in 2000. When it went into effect five years later, it put a five-gun limit on most citizens, allowing just one gun per person for self-defense purposes. As the Times explained:
But getting any gun at all, critics say, is the big task. Guns are to be automatically denied to drug or alcohol abusers, spouse abusers, people inclined to violence or "deviant behavior" and anyone who has been imprisoned for violent or sex-related crimes. The police interview three acquaintances of each applicant before deciding whether he or she is competent to own a gun. Prospective gun owners must pass a firearms course. They also must install a safe or strongbox that meets police standards for gun storage.
South Africa now ranks 50th in the world in gun ownership rates, and gun-related crime has dropped 21 percent since 2004-05. Shooting murders of women, particularly by their partners, has dropped, as shown by this chart from a 2012 report (PDF) by the South African Medical Research Council. (Murders by partners are called "intimate femicides.")
Still, in 2007, the country's gun homicide rate was among the highest in the world, ranking 12th at 17 gun murders annually per 100,000 people. To put that statistic in context: In 2007, there were 8,319 gun deaths murders in South Africa, a country of roughly 49 million people. The United States—No. 1 in gun ownership, and with more than six times as many people—had 9,960 gun deaths homicides in 2012.
In many ways, American and South African gun culture and gun violence are quite different. But the possibility that Pistorius intentionally shot and killed Steenkamp brings to mind two of the most prominent pro-gun myths: namely, that keeping a gun at home makes you and your loved ones safer, and that guns make women safer.
Remember all the excitement when the San Francisco 49ers became the first NFL team to make an "It Gets Better" video in support of bullied LGBT teens? Now the Niners are the first NFL team to have its "It Gets Better" video pulled from Dan Savage's site.
In the wake of a presidential campaign that saw Mitt Romney popularize the term "self-deportation" and President Obama clobber his rival among Latino and Asian American voters, Obama and the Senate's bipartisan Gang of Eight have announced the broad strokes of their respective immigration reform plans, which aim to deal with the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. We put together this primer to help you follow the debate now brewing.
What is "comprehensive immigration reform"? For years, this expression has been code for an immigration compromise. It would include tougher border enforcement (more Border Patrol agents, fencing, etc.), while also proposing a path to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already here. Guest worker programs are often the third prong, in theory providing a legal way for foreign workers to fill temporary jobs in the US.
As my colleague Adam Serwer pointed out, Obama's plan makes no mention of a guest worker program, while the proposal put forward by the Gang of Eight—Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)—calls for a "humane and effective system" for "immigrant workers to enter the country and find employment without seeking the aid of human traffickers or drug cartels."
In a corporate sports world dominated by controversy-averse players giving boilerplate non-answers, Chris Kluwe is a glimmering sparklepony of candor. The former Minnesota Vikings and current Oakland Raiders punter is best known for his now-infamous letter to a same-sex-marriage opponent in the Maryland General Assembly, assuring Delegate Everett C. Burns Jr. that gay people "won't turn you into a lustful cockmonster."
Kluwe's devastating takedown, posted on the Gawker sports blog Deadspin in September, generated 2.3 million pageviews and launched the 31-year-old into a new stratosphere of visibility. So much for the stereotypically lonely kicker: Kluwe now has nearly 150,000 Twitter followers (his handle, @ChrisWarcraft, is a nod to his gaming habit) and was even named Salon's Sexiest Man of the Year.
While Kluwe's marriage diatribe prompted some homophobic trolling, he says the response to it and his other outspoken opinions on climate change, corporate responsibility, and "stupidity in general" has been overwhlemingly positive, even in hostile territory. "We were at Green Bay," he says, recalling pregame warm-ups in a nearly empty Lambeau Field. "All of a sudden I hear from the stands: 'Chris Kluwe, I love your politics!'"
Yet even internet celebs aren't immune to their boss' grumbling: In mid-December, the Vikings' special-teams coach complained that the punter was becoming a distraction. Asked if he'd approached Kluwe, the coach responded, "Nah. He don't listen."
Here's Kluwe doing his thing on the January 8 episode of The Colbert Report:
Mother Jones: What first prompted you to dive into the marriage-equality debate?
Chris Kluwe: Minnesotans for Equality. One of the people involved with them had been following me for a while on Twitter and figured I would help them out in terms of defeating the amendment, and so I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great thing." There's no reason to enshrine discrimination into a state constitution.
A photographer goes straight to the heart of one of the country's great basketball hotbeds: the Hoosier State.
—Photos by Elijah Hurwitz/ZUMAPress, Text by Ian Gordon
| Mon Dec. 31, 2012 6:35 AM EST
From Indianapolis' Hinkle Fieldhouse to Bloomington's Assembly Hall, from Milan High's bandbox to the Final Four-ready RCA Dome, Indiana is home to countless legendary basketball venues. But the state's passion for hoops isn't limited to formal games played in front of hundreds or thousands of fans. Sometimes, the best basketball is played when few—if any—are watching.
Earlier this year, photographer Elijah Hurwitz set out to capture Indiana basketball in places "where it offers a way out of boredom or a way out of town. Where it offers a way to build bonds and rivalries. And often, where it's simply a way to pass the time when there's nothing else to do." In his rich, intimate shots of driveway pickup, prison ball, and the state's intensely loyal fanbase, Hurwitz illustrates the state's hoops passion, which he first experienced as an undergraduate at Indiana University. As it happens, this year's Hoosiers have returned to their place among the nation's top programs, reaching No. 1 for the first time in 20 years—and giving a new generation of Indianans a team to emulate and obsess over for years to come.
Three Amish siblings in Goshen shoot hoops in the backyard of their farm house as laundry dries. There are nine brothers and sisters in all, and their father is a horseshoe blacksmith.
Indiana State Prison inmates cheer for their teammates during a scrimmage against a local college. Because it's a maximum security prison, only inmates on good behavior are allowed to participate.
The prison team huddles between plays, coached by fellow inmate "Teddy" in the green hat.
An inmate soars for a dunk at the prison yards, originally constructed when Abraham Lincoln was president.
Zach and Chad pose in front of their home hoop in Bowling Green while younger brother Cameron plays in the yard.
A field in Shelbyville
Two brothers practice in front of their roadside home in Bremen.
A girl shoots on a makeshift basket in a rough section of Gary, the former murder capital of the United States.
Friends use a football to play a game of horse in Michigan City. Their basketball was stolen by someone in the neighborhood.
A boy whose LaGrange house doesn't have a basketball hoop practices his shooting form.
A front yard in Wabash
Ward gives a haircut at his Bloomington barbershop. The walls display nearly every IU basketball schedule back to 1980s.
A Washington welcome sign
Jack Butcher, the all-time-winningest Indiana high school basketball coach, at his home. On the wall are framed pictures of his three sons, all of whom he coached.
A statue of Larry Bird in a parking lot in his hometown, French Lick. Bird went on to win NBA championships with the Boston Celtics, play for the Olympic team, and coach the Indiana Pacers.
Ticket takers at IU's Assembly Hall await eager fans at the first game of the season.
A father and son await the first game of the Hoosiers' season from the top-most row of Assembly Hall (capacity 17,472).
The Hoosiers huddle before their first game. Ranked No. 1 for the first time in 20 years under coach Tom Crean, expectations are high this season.