NaBloPoMo 2018: What I’m Learning
So the NRA tweets, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”
Hmmm, self-important. Yes, sometimes. After four years of college, four years of medical school, up to seven years of residency and then another 3 years of fellowship to earn the privilege of operating on the spines, nerves, organs, and blood vessels of gunshot victims, to maybe give them a chance to stay alive much less walk and talk, I can tolerate a little (just a little) self-importance in my emergency medicine, neurosurgery, trauma surgery, critical care and other colleagues. They are f*ing rock stars.
Anti-gun. I have yet to meet any physician, or any person, really, who is wholly anti-gun. We are pro-gun safety, anti-violence by guns. We would like for toddlers to not kill their siblings and parents by accident. We would like for domestic disputes to not escalate to someone shooting their family and then themselves in an impulsive fit of rage. We would like for depressed and suicidal patients not to actually kill themselves, which is too much easier to do with a firearm than any other method. We just want to stop being the only country where so many die every year from being shot by guns.
The American College of Physicians (ACP), the internal medicine professional society and my home for professional communion and development, and the largest medical specialty organization, has published an updated position paper on reducing firearm deaths in the US:
In 2015, 9 (the ACP) joined the American College of Surgeons, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Public Health Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, and American Bar Association in a call to action to address gun violence as a public health threat, which was subsequently endorsed by 52 organizations that included clinician organizations, consumer organizations, organizations representing families of gun violence victims, research organizations, public health organizations, and other health advocacy organizations (2). Yet, firearm violence remains a problem—firearm-related mortality rates in the United States are still the highest among high-income countries (3).
Cited in their tweet, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action posted an article (no author identified) picking apart the ACP’s research citations and approach, stating, “This position paper leaves one wondering if the authors reviewed the evidence, or just found works that suited their needs. For all of the bluster about their own important role in the anti-gun movement and all of the misuse of research findings, the ACP makes one thing clear: they respect their own rights and opinions far more than they do those of law-abiding gun owners.” *sigh* As I have not read the primary literature on gun mortality and public health myself, I will not comment on that here. I will just say that I wholeheartedly trust in the integrity of my colleagues and leaders at the ACP. I’m proud of our advocacy for patients and, more recently, for physicians ourselves and our well-being.
My physician colleagues have posted a multitude of passionate responses on Twitter; you can read them here, here, and here. And I just now saw this open letter to the NRA from the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) and signed it. Below are highlights—please take a look.
I admit, I initially responded with profanity at seeing the NRA tweet. My threshold for swearing is very low these days. And I wanted to just post screenshots of the anti-NRA tweet storm and let them speak for me. But that’s not me. I have yet to really decide how I want to design my public platform and conduct on issues like this. For now, I can just say that tweets and articles like the NRA posted are disappointing. I don’t want to follow that lead.
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Dear National Rifle Association,
On Wednesday night (11/7/2018), in response to a position paper released by the American College of Physicians (ACP) Reducing Firearm Injuries and Death in the United States, your organization published the statement “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”
On that same day, the CDC published new data indicating that the death toll from gun violence in our nation continues to rise. As we read your demand for us doctors to 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, the undersigned – physicians, nurses, therapists, medical professionals, and other concerned community members – want to tell you that we are absolutely “in our lane” when we propose solutions to prevent death and disability from gun violence.
Our research efforts have been curtailed by your lobbying efforts to Congress. We ask that you join forces with us to find solutions. Help us in our non-partisan, physician-driven research efforts at AFFIRM Research.
We invite you to be part of the solution.
You dismissed the ACP’s position statement on preventing death and injury from gun violence by stating, “Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”
We extend our invitation for you 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.