Gun-owner Chipper Jones against civilians having assault weapons

Gun-loving outdoorsman and Hall of Fame Mets tormentor Chipper Jones believes assault weapons have no place in American society.

Jones owns several guns, but he prefers to hunt with a bow and arrow because “it’s more sporty” than using the same kind of powerful semi-automatic rifles like AR-15s that are also the preferred weapons of mass murderers.

“I believe in our Constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves,” Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from Braves spring training. “But I do not believe there is any need for civilians to own assault rifles. I just don’t.

“I would like to see something (new legislation) happen. I liken it to drugs — you’re not going to get rid of all the guns. But AR-15s and AK-47s and all this kind of stuff — they belong in the hands of soldiers. Those belong in the hands of people who know how to operate them, and whose lives depend on them operating them. Not with civilians. I have no problem with hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols and whatnot, but I’m totally against civilians having those kinds of automatic and semi-automatic weapons.”

The retired Braves slugger, who is from rural Florida, is in favor of raising the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21. He also doesn’t think arming school teachers is a smart way of protecting kids from crazed shooters.

“If you want to up school security with people who’ve been through police training and know what it’s like to draw your weapon when your life is threatened, know when to pull the trigger and when not to, that’s one thing,” Jones said. “But I would venture to say that if you polled all of the teachers in America, it would be way over 90 percent who would say no.”

Media outlets like Breitbart quickly pounced on Jones’s comments, criticizing him and the author, Jeff Schultz, for not being able to define what an “assault weapon” is — splitting hairs might be a better way of putting it.

“What is going on here in Florida with the protests and people really stepping up to try to make things happen is a good thing,” Jones said. “It’s always good for there to be open discussion. Hopefully if we can keep those high-powered automatic weapons out of civilians' hands, the Las Vegases and the Columbines and what happened here in Florida will start to dwindle.”

Jones’s words this week are part of that discussion. The fact that he grew up in a rural area where guns are a big part of the culture and these issues hit closer to home made what he said a legitimate part of the conversation about guns.

He is also part of a fraternity known for owning guns. In the past, individuals in the sports industry have estimated that more than half of MLB players and more than 60% of NBA players own guns; a USA TODAY Sports investigation in 2012 reported that about 75% of NFL players had owned some form of firearm, whether it’s a hunting rifle for sport or a handgun for self-defense.

We’re already seeing those with opposing views trying to tear down Jones’s words. Hopefully that doesn’t deter others from voicing their beliefs on the issue, and doesn’t force people with something to say to stick to sports.

“I grew up in a town where two-thirds of the people who came to school drove trucks and had hunting rifles and hunting shotguns in their gun racks in their trucks,” Jones said. “But never at any point did anyone ever pull one out and say, ‘I’m going to kill somebody.’

“Whenever there was a disagreement, we threw knuckles,” he said. “We’d meet after school and fight. That’s just the way it was.”