Medical professionals to NRA: Guns are our lane. Help us reduce deaths or move over.
After the American College of Physicians released a paper last week about reducing firearm injuries and deaths in America, the NRA tweeted the statement: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”
A couple of days later, the Centers for Disease Control published new data indicating that the death toll from gun violence in our nation continues to rise. As the NRA demanded that we doctors stay in our lane, we awoke to learn of the 307th mass shooting in 2018 with another 12 innocent lives lost to an entirely preventable cause of death — gun violence.
Every medical professional practicing in the United States has seen enough gun violence firsthand to deeply understand the toll that this public health epidemic is taking on our children, families, and entire communities.
It is long past time for us to acknowledge the epidemic is real, devastating, and has root causes that can be addressed to assuage the damage. We must all come together to find meaningful solutions to this very American problem.
We bear witness to every gun-related trauma
The physicians, nurses, therapists, medical professionals, and other concerned community members signing this letter are absolutely “in our lane” when we propose solutions to prevent death and disability from gun violence.
As the professionals who manage this epidemic, we bear witness to every trauma and attempt to resuscitate, successful or not.
►We cut open chests and hold hearts in our hands in the hopes of bringing them back to life.
►We do our best to repair the damage from bullets to pulverized organs and splintered bones.
►We care for the survivors of firearm injury for decades after they’ve been paralyzed, lost a limb, or been disabled.
►We deliver mental health care to the siblings and parents of the children who have been shot as well as to the survivors of gun violence.
►We treat the anxiety of teachers and students who are already traumatized by the news of mass shootings who are then are asked to participate in active shooter drills in their own schools.
►We prepare for mass casualty shootings with drills ourselves and practice sorting victims by how life-threatening their injuries are while fervently hoping that a mass shooting never touches our own communities.
►We are asked by families, schools, employers and law enforcement to conduct mental health evaluations and threat assessments of individuals who demonstrate dangerous behaviors with legally-owned firearms — yet we have no protocols to decrease firearm risk when they present to us.
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►We support our own medical colleagues as they themselves must recover from the psychological trauma of being first responders to mass shootings.
►We design trauma protocols to reduce the loss of life from even the most horrific gunshot wounds.
►We train civilians to carry and use tourniquets to #StopTheBleed, something that should be necessary on battlefields but not in American grade school classrooms.
►We try our best to conduct research to stop the epidemic of gun violence.
►We hold the hands of gunshot victims taking their final breaths.
►We cry, ourselves, as we tell parents that their child has been shot and that we did our best.
►We escort parents into our treatment rooms to take one last look at their dead child before they have been able to process the news.
►We see firsthand how a single moment ends a life and forever changes the lives of survivors, families, and entire communities.
NRA should help us reduce gun death toll
Our research efforts have been curtailed by NRA lobbying efforts in Congress. We ask that the NRA join forces with us to find solutions.
We invite the NRA to collaborate with us to find workable, effective strategies to diminish the death toll from suicide, homicide, domestic violence and unintentional shootings for the thousands of Americans who will one day find themselves on the wrong side of a barrel of a gun.
We are not anti-gun. We are anti-bullet hole. Let’s work together.
Join us, or move over! This is our lane.
Megan L. Ranney (@meganranney), an emergency physician, is chief research officer and co-founder of the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM). Heather Sher (@hshermd), a radiologist, and Dara Kass (@darakass) , an emergency physician, are on the AFFIRM advisory board. This column is adapted from a letter responding to the NRA that is circulating among health care professionals and already has more than 10,000 signatures.
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