Aaron McKie grew up in Olney, went to Gratz High, graduated from Temple, and was a valued guard for the 76ers, named NBA sixth man of the year for the 2000-01 season.

On Monday, he was arrested after allegedly lying in the purchase of two handguns, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and a 9mm Ruger.

"Unfortunately, Philadelphia's become a pretty dangerous place," his attorney Brian McMonagle said, "and for athletes like himself, there's certainly no good reason for them not to try to protect their families and themselves."

My guess is that when athletes like himself come into Philadelphia, they're more likely to be greeted by fans, autograph pens and heartfelt handshakes than by pistols.

Yet the lawyer played the Philadelphia-is-dangerous defense. By the way, McMonagle said this standing in Montgomery County.

There are 23,700 gun permits in the city. Yes, guns don't kill people. Stupid people with guns do.

This argument "reinforces a stereotype that the answer to violence is more violence," says Joe Grace of CeaseFire PA. "All the available data shows that the more you introduce handguns into the situation, the more violence you get."

Dangerous burbs

McKie no longer lives in Philadelphia. He resides in a $1.8 million, 7,417-square-foot French colonial with five bedrooms and 61/2 baths in the bucolic burg of Narberth. So danger is less likely to come from thugs than from deer.

He was denied the purchase due to a September protection-from-abuse order regarding his former girlfriend and mother of his daughter. Kianna Williams said McKie threw her to the ground, in Narberth, shouting, "I want you dead. I promise I'm going to kill you."

In 2001, McKie was part of another protection-from-abuse order when Williams alleged he punched her, dislocating her jaw. This unfortunate, alleged incident also occurred in the suburbs.

Maybe McKie shouldn't have any guns, in the suburbs or elsewhere. His lawyer, though, worked the obfuscation game and blamed the purchase on the wicked city.

McKie never forgot the neighborhood where he grew up. He launched AM8 Foundation - 8 being his Sixers number - and gave money, food and gifts to the Belfield Rec Center, around the corner from the street where he first lived.

"Belfield became Aaron's home-away-from-home," according to his foundation's Web site, "a haven for him to work on his game."

Benign Belfield

Given how McMonagle says Philadelphia is such a dangerous place, I paid a visit to Belfield.

Risk-taker that I am, I went unarmed.

It was a splendid summer afternoon. Kids frolicked in the ice-blue pool. Teenagers shot hoops. Camp begins in two weeks.

In seven years of working there, Belfield's George Cowan says, there's not been a single incidence of violence. Jerry Boligitz, the rec department's district manager, worked there for two trouble-free years. There are kids here all the time. It is indeed a haven.

"Belfield's one of the city's basketball meccas," rec department program director Stuart Greenberg said. Rasheed Wallace played here, too.

Belfield has launched a baseball program. Next week, Cowan expects computers to arrive for the summer and after-school program.

Philadelphia doesn't need more guns. Or high-priced defense lawyers blaming failed gun purchases on our wicked streets.

It needs hoops. And computers.

As I was taking notes, a teen playing on the basketball court yelled, "Can you get someone to get us some fiberglass backboards?"

As it so happens, four new boards cost about as much as a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and a 9mm Ruger, and would make the city, its kids and streets a better, safer place. Which you can't say about guns.

Maybe Brian McMonagle would like to do his part?

Contact staff writer Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or kheller@phillynews.com. Read her blog at http://go.philly.com/populist.