Posted on: December 24, 2009 3:49 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2009 10:49 pm
The NBA and Washington Wizards are investigating Gilbert Arenas for storing firearms in his locker, which would be a violation of the league's gun policy.
After CBSSports.com first reported the incident Thursday, the Wizards released a statement saying that Arenas stored unloaded firearms in a locked container in his locker. The guns were not accompanied by ammunition, the team said. But under league guidelines collectively bargained between the players and owners, players are not permitted to carry firearms on league property or during league business. Arenas, who was previously suspended one game in 2004-05 for violating the NBA's weapons policy, could face league discipline regardless of whether the guns in his locker were loaded. NBA policy does not differentiate between loaded and unloaded guns, according to a person familiar with the guidelines.
“The Wizards organization and Arenas promptly notified the local authorities and the NBA, [and] are cooperating fully with law enforcement during its review of this matter," the team said in its statement.
A person familiar with the probe said the investigation "will be concluded shortly," and that no criminal charges have been filed. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement permits players to legally possess firearms only when they are not on league property or conducting league business.
"We're aware of the situation and are working to gain a full understanding of the facts and relevant legal issues," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
Arenas told the Washington Times that the incident occurred around December 10, when he moved the weapons from his home to his lock box at Verizon Center after his daughter was born.
"I decided I didn't want the guns in my house and around the kids anymore, so I took them to my lock box at Verizon Center," Arenas told the newspaper. "Then like a week later, I turned them over to team security and told them to hand them over to the police, because I don't want them anymore. I wouldn't have brought them to D.C. had I known the rules. After my daughter was born, I was just like, 'I don't need these anymore.'”
In 2006, Sebastian Telfair was fined an undisclosed amount after a loaded handgun registered to his girlfriend was found on the team plane at Logan Airport in Boston when Telfair played for the Trail Blazers. Cavaliers guard Delonte West has been indicted on multiple weapons counts in Maryland for riding on his motorcycle Sept. 17 with two loaded handguns, a shotgun, 112 shotgun shells, and an 8.5-inch knife.
Arenas was suspended for the 2004-05 season opener after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to maintain proper registration for a firearm in California while with the Warriors in 2003. The fact that he is a repeat offender could affect the severity of his punishment.
The issue of gun possession is a controversial topic in D.C., where a zero-tolerance ban on firearms possession – even with a license – was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 as a violation of the Second Amendment.
“Anything that involves a firearm in the District of Columbia is a serious issue,” said the person familiar with the Arenas investigation.
Officer Quintin Peterson, spokesman for the Washington, D.C., police department, told the Associated Press he was not aware of an active investigation regarding Arenas.
Gun possession has become a serious concern for NBA commissioner David Stern, who before the 2006 season urged players to keep their guns at home.
“It’s a pretty, I think, widely accepted statistic that if you carry a gun, your chances of being shot by one increase dramatically,” Stern said at the time. “We think this is an alarming subject, that although you’ll read players saying how they feel safer with guns, in fact those guns actually make them less safe. And it’s a real issue.”
The issue of athletes and guns rose to a new level of concern when New York Giants received Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg with an illegal handgun he carried into a crowded nightclub in 2008. Burress lost most of his $35 million contract and is serving a two-year prison sentence.
Arenas, in the second year of a six-year, $111 million contract, has been trying to regain his All-Star form after a series of knee injuries limited him to 15 games over the past two seasons. The Wizards (10-17), expected to be one of the top contenders in the East, are off to one of the most disappointing starts in the league.