Saints coach on gun laws following player death: “I can’t wrap my brain around it”

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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and former Saints Defensive End Will Smith (Will Smith Image Provided by: Jeffrey Beall / CC BY-SA 3.0)

(CNN) — Less than three days after his former player was shot to death, New Orleans Saints coach publicly blasted gun laws in Louisiana and the United States.

“I hate guns,” he told USA Today in a phone interview. “I find myself leaning to the right on some issues. But on this issue, I can’t wrap my brain around it.”

Payton, who helped lead the state’s beloved Saints to their first Super Bowl in 2010, knows that his comments may make him unpopular in Louisiana.

His response?

“So be it.”

“I’ve heard people argue that everybody needs a gun,” he said. “That’s madness. I know there are many kids who grow up in a” hunting environment. I get that. But there are places, like England, where even the cops don’t have guns.”

Smith, 34, was shot in a traffic altercation late Saturday evening in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District. He died at the scene.

Cardell Hayes has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with Smith’s killing.

Police say after an accident, Smith and Hayes “exchanged words” before Hayes shot the former Saints defensive end.

However Hayes’ attorney says that he was not the aggressor in the conflict.

Hayes called 911 before the shooting, secured a witness who was leaving the scene, and remained at the scene after the shooting until authorities arrived, attorney John Fuller said.

“Tell me if that’s the behavior that’s consistent with someone who’s an animal out here looking for blood,” he said. “His actions are totally consistent with someone that is complying with a police investigation.”

Smith had a decorated collegiate and professional football career.

He won a national championship while at Ohio State and was on the Saints’ only Super Bowl-winning team. He led the team in sacks during the regular season that year.

His wife, Racquel, was shot in the leg and is expected to survive. The pair had three children: William, Lisa Mya and Wynter Chase.