PITTSBURGH -- When it comes to the subject of the NFL's gun culture in light of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is a go-to gun authority.
He's been a collector with as many as 20 guns since becoming "fascinated" by them after his grandfather taught him about guns when he was a teenager, he said. Harrison posed for Men's Journal magazine with two handguns across his bare chest, and he touched on his disdain for gun control in the August 2011 cover story.
He remains steadfast in his belief that Belcher's horrific murder-suicide last Saturday -- when Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, then drove to the Chiefs facility and committed suicide -- isn't a gun issue, but a people issue.
"It's a big issue as far as what happened and everything, it's a sad story,'' Harrison told USA TODAY Sports. "But the fact of it being part of the guns â?¦ They want to say it's guns and all this other stuff. It's ridiculous. He did it. And he alone is responsible for it. It has nothing to do with the guns.
"Somebody goes out and kills somebody with a knife, you going to blame the knife? Somebody goes out and kills somebody by pushing somebody in front of a train, you going to start cutting off the guy's arms? You going to start blaming people's arms now? It's the person who did it who is responsible.''
Harrison, who normally doesn't speak to the media except after games or on Fridays, continued his rant at his locker: "It's not an athlete thing, it's a human thing,'' the 34-year-old linebacker said.
"If you go and say, 'Alright, now we're going to take guns away from everybody, and the only person who is going to have guns are the police ... if that was a good thing and that's actually how it would go, then that would work.
"But the two people who are going to have the guns then are the police and the criminals. So now I know I can break into every house in the country that doesn't have a gun in it because they're no longer allowed to carry handguns. That's not going to solve things. It's only going to cause more problems.''
Belcher's murder-suicide obviously hasn't made Harrison reconsider his stance on the right to bear and collect firearms.
"No, no,'' he said. "I have my guns. I'm going to keep my guns. I'm going to use my guns responsibly and go from there. It's not as far as athletes needing guns (for protection). It's the right to bear firearms. You never know. You may need it for protection. A lot of people like to hunt. And so on and so forth.
"It's not the gun that did it. No one convinced me to have a gun. I was fascinated with guns when I was a little kid. When I was able to finally get my first gun, I bought a 12-gauge.''
He has expanded his collection since his first acquisition at 18.
"I started collecting from there,'' Harrison said. "I have crossbows. I have compound bows. I've got dart guns. I've got everything ... 15, 20 guns. Who knows?''
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor's murder following a 2007 home invasion made NFL players more concerned about protecting themselves, players say.
"Everybody has the right to protect themselves. Period. Home invasions,'' Harrison said.