We’ve long known that attacking lax gun control in America in a frank fashion on network TV can seem like a third rail in our media politics—even after, for example, movie theater audiences are shot up, or a US congresswoman gets a bullet in the head. Now Bob Costas, the longtime NBC sports host and commentator (who has spoken his mind before) is illustrating this anew.

Surely, by now, you know that Costas, in a brief halftime appearance during an NFL game on Sunday night, seemed to call for stricter limits on guns in the aftermath of the murder-suicide caused by a Kansas City linebacker (he shot the mother of his new baby then killed himself in front of his coaches at the stadium). Actually, Costas did little more than read from a strong newspaper column on the subject.

This provoked an incredible outpouring of vitriol from the usual gun nut and right-wing sources, including a serious drive to get Costas fired. Fox and Friends aired a loopy segment which suggested that the killer might have just as easily strangled his girlfriend (with his mother a few feet away) and then, I guess, strangled himself in front of his coaches. Someone on Twitter responded to one of my comments on this by accusing Costas of “treason.”  Megyn Kelly at Fox said, hey, O.J. Simpson killed his wife with a knife!

Love this Politico lead:

Herman Cain, Ted Nugent and Michelle Malkin were among a wave of conservatives who sacked NBC broadcaster Bob Costas on Twitter on Monday after he offered support for gun control on a ‘Sunday Night Football’ halftime segment on the broadcast of the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game.

Howard Kurtz concluded at The Daily Beast: “Costas came down firmly in favor of gun control, and he’ll have to live with the consequences.”  I guess he could have just as easily written, “America has come down firmly for guns, and tens of thousands every year will have to live with the consequences.”

Bill Carter of The New York Times last night talked to Costas about his controversial halftime commentary. Costas now says, “I am emphatically not backing off from anything I said.” He called for “a combination of enlightened legislation and controls, coupled with an adjustment in our attitude toward guns.”

He added, “Common sense tells us the culture is overrun by guns and that many people who possess them are dangerous or careless.” He also rejected criticism of his comments as inappropriate for a football audience.

He said the criticisms of his commentary “hold no weight with me” because the same people saying that that was an inappropriate time and place to talk about the gun issue “would have thought it was fine if they agreed with what I was saying.”

Then, also at the Times today, columnist Frank Bruni explored the larger issue of football’s violent culture: “There’s something rotten in the NFL, an obviously dysfunctional culture that either brings out sad, destructive behavior in its fearsome gladiators or fails to protect them and those around them from it.”

Here’s my post with full text of Costa remarks Sunday and criticism from the likes of Fox & Friends.  UPDATE:  Costas appeared with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC on Tuesday.  Plus: tough-minded Robert Lipsyte column at Slate.

For more on the tragedy in Kansas City, read Dave Zirin’s latest.

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books on politics,  history and media. His latest, on the Obama-Romney battle, is Tricks, Lies, and Videotape.