The War Between Doctors And The NRA Just Got Real

When the NRA told doctors to mind their own business last week the response was swift, brutal and shows no sign of letting up. 

Background

The Annals of Internal Medicine, an academic journal published by the American College of Physicians (ACP), published a position paper in October 2018 discussing the need to reduce firearm injuries and deaths in the United States.

The position paper detailed ten “position statements and recommendations,” which included a statement of support for “appropriate regulation of the purchase of legal firearms,” and for the “enactment of legislation to ban the manufacture, sale, transfer, and subsequent ownership for civilian use of semiautomatic firearms that are designed to increase their rapid killing capacity (often called “assault weapons”) and large-capacity magazines, and retaining the current ban on automatic weapons for civilian use.”

The NRA reacts

Eight days later, the NRA reacted on Twitter by posting a link to an article published by its Institute of Legislative Action. targeting the position paper published by the American College of Physicians.

“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.,” the NRA tweeted.

Reaction by doctors was swift and furious

As one might expect, doctors were quick to react with the BBC reporting: “When America’s powerful pro-gun group told doctors to mind their own business, the response was swift, furious and viral.”

Below are a few noteworthy examples of Twitter responses by doctors courtesy of BBC and CNN:

  • “Oh, was I supposed to consult the NRA when my elderly patient with dementia accidentally shot themself holstering a gun they legally owned? Because I was under the impression I was to consult general surgery and social services. My bad. :/ Gun control: not just about young people.” ~ Dr. M. Fraggle
  • “After treating countless patients with life altering spinal cord injuries and brain injuries secondary to gun shot wounds, I would have to say this is my lane.” ~ Dana Bussing
  • “@NRA says docs should “stay in [our] lane. My lane is a pregnant woman shot in a moment of rage by her partner. She survived because the baby stopped the bullet. Have you ever had to deliver a shattered baby? #ThisisMyLane . What’s yours? #Docs4GunSense” ~ Stephanie Bonne
  • “You have never had to wipe the blood off your shoes before you tell the mother of a 17 yo boy that she will never hug her son again. THAT is my lane. Come to work with me for one day and see the impact gun violence has on our country. #ThisIsOurLane #BAFERDS #StopGunViolence” ~ Ellie Wallace, MD

Epilogue

Dr. Judy Melinek, a forsenic pathologist in California and the CEO of PathologyExpert, Inc., offered an enlightening response to the controversy in an article published by Vox which elaborated on an earlier tweet:

In her article she offered the following background info:

I am a forensic pathologist who has investigated gun deaths for my entire career. I am the one who gets called out to the death scene at 2 am. I am the one who stands behind the cordon line, across the yellow tape from the shocked faces of the decedent’s neighbors, friends, next of kin… In 17 years on the job, I have performed more than 300 autopsies on gunshot wound victims. About half are homicides and the other half suicides, while a small number are accidents. One day I did five autopsies — an entire family — after a man shot his three children, his wife, and himself. In the course of another autopsy, of a man who was shot by the police after pointing his gun at them, I examined and documented 43 gunshot trajectories. That postmortem took me four days.

Continuing, she discussed the fact that doctors have a history of speaking out about matters of national concern:

Car crashes used to kill a lot more Americans before doctors, including my fellow forensic pathologists, advocated for government regulation of the auto industry, mandating the use of safety restraints and airbags. Those regulations save lives.

Lung cancer deaths used to be epidemic. Cigarettes are still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, but our excess mortality rate from smoking has plummeted in the wake of legislation. It was doctors who spearheaded this effort to limit the exposure of teenagers to tobacco — legislation that has resulted in decreased smoking rates in every state where it has been implemented.

She concluded her remarks addressing the need for medical professionals to speak out about firearm regulations:

As scientists and caregivers, we doctors are in a unique position to understand the scale of human suffering caused by guns. We are driven both by data and by an intense feeling of personal responsibility toward those in our care. Gun deaths get the most media attention following a mass-fatality incident, such as in Parkland, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, or Thousand Oaks. The daily carnage we witness in hospitals and morgues is often overlooked, but it happens everywhere, to every group of Americans, and leaves our patients and their families with an accumulation of broken bodies, coffins, and grief.

We have to do something. Doctors took on the auto industry and big tobacco on behalf of our patients. We didn’t choose this fight, but we if we have to, we can take on the NRA.

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