Gunning for a better life

It’s been over a year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and little remains of the resolve that seemed to develop within the American public to “do something.”


I was taking advantage of glorious weather today, 60 deg. F, to take Ginger the dog for a great big 2 hour walk when we happened on this remarkable billboard sign.

For those whose eyes are not what they once were, the sign reads: “GUNS SAVE LIVES” and the Nebraska coalition for gun owners apparently paid for it.

Cynical? You bet. Doctors save lives. Nurses save lives. Antibiotics and medicine. Polio and tetanus vaccines. Biomedical research. Seat belts. Reduced smoking. But guns? Seriously?

Let’s examine this statement. Do guns save lives? If you are a police officer and being threatened by a criminal – then I suppose your weapon could save your life. If you are in the military and in a combat role – yes, I’ve experienced that. Possession of a working rifle can definitely help keep one alive. But these are extreme situations and reserved for those in uniform. How about your average run-of-the-mill citizen?

The answer, resoundingly, is that guns take many more lives than they save. No amount of cynical billboard announcements can change that fact. In Sept. 2013, Michael Luo and Mike McIntire of the New York Times published an article examining the under-reporting of gun-related deaths among children. This horrific report, detailing the massive numbers of accidental deaths and their causes (lack of parental supervision and improper storage of weapons) do not jive with the motto that “Guns Save Lives.”

Sure, one could envision an isolated scenario where a burglar or home invader is repelled by a responsible gun owner – but these instances are few and far between – and dwarfed by the massive numbers of gun accidents, not to mention intentional gun violence. But all these issues, as true as they may be, are beside the point.

As an advocate of gun control in the US, I know that there is no chance in my lifetime to make the US a gun-free society. I give up. I don’t even want to try. But it’s the simple, sensible measures that one would expect even gun owners to support that defy logic. Automatic military-style rifles? Are they required for self-protection or hunting? Anyone who says yes would probably also support the freedom to own hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

And what about sensible legislation? Should owners not be responsible for locking up their weapons? If a child gets his (and in 90% of the cases it’s really boys) hands on such a weapon, should the adult not be held accountable? Shouldn’t there be background checks to ensure that gun purchasers are not felons and don’t have acute schizophrenia? Shouldn’t gun owners support these very minimal modifications to the law that would make their own children and families safer? That would reduce the likelihood of accidental deaths or deaths caused by imbalanced persons? Wouldn’t fewer gun deaths reduce the pressure from those who would like to abolish guns altogether (as futile as that is)?

It’s high time that sensible leadership surfaced from the side of those who believe in their intrinsic right to bear arms. All that’s needed is a modicum of sensitivity to a problem that continues to take lives. But the posting of billboard signs that claim “Guns Save Lives” shows an intransigence that is both cynical and unreasonable.


About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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One Response to Gunning for a better life

  1. rpg says:

    As—as of today—a gun owner, I agree with every word you say, Steve.

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