After NRA Rebuke, Many Doctors Speak Louder on Gun Violence (#GotBitcoin?)
Medical societies are calling for gun-control measures and other solutions to what they see as a public-health crisis.
U.S. doctors and medical societies are increasingly speaking out against firearm violence, calling for gun-control measures and other solutions to what they see as a public-health crisis that shows no signs of ebbing.
Their outspokenness picked up in recent days, after the National Rifle Association said in a tweet on Nov. 7: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”
The NRA, which has fought efforts to restrict access to guns, was criticizing an updated position paper that the American College of Physicians had published calling for various ways to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a threat to others or to themselves. The position paper was published by the physicians group’s journal, the Annals of Internal Medicine, in late October, just days after a gunman killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The group said the paper had been in the works before the incident.
In the paper, the physicians group, a society of internal-medicine doctors with about 154,000 members, said it supports laws that bar domestic-violence offenders from buying guns, and opposes laws that force states to honor concealed-carry permits issued in other states.
The NRA said in its tweet that the medical journal was “pushing for gun control.”
The NRA tweet prompted many doctors and nurses to tweet in response with the hashtag #ThisIsMyLane, saying their efforts to save the lives of gunshot victims give them the right to call for solutions. Some of the tweets included graphic pictures of doctors and nurses treating victims.
Stephanie Bonne, a trauma surgeon at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., on Saturday tweeted a photo of the floor of an operating room covered with blood, and the legs of colleagues standing next to an operating table. “She didn’t make it,” Dr. Bonne wrote of a woman who died from a gunshot.
Dr. Bonne said in an interview she snapped the picture earlier this year, but couldn’t release more details about the victim because of medical-privacy laws. She said she took the picture because “I knew I was going to be going home exhausted and defeated” and she wanted to show her husband what she had been through.
Dr. Bonne, who is also a professor of surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said the NRA’s tweet was a “gut punch” to doctors.
“We have an intimacy with our patients that nobody else has,” she said. “We open them up. We put our hands inside their body. And to have somebody say to you ‘You don’t belong here, this isn’t your lane’ is really condescending and really inappropriate. It’s time to post the pictures. Let’s show people what it looks like to work in a trauma center.”
Dr. Bonne said her trauma center treats about 500 to 600 patients with gunshot wounds a year. She favors public-health strategies to reduce gun violence, such as educating people about safe storage of guns, while still being respectful of gun owners’ constitutional rights.
The American College of Physicians has expressed concern about gun violence in the past, but it has become more vocal in recent years because of the frequency of mass shootings, said Dr. Ana Maria Lopez, the group’s president.
“Our job is to make people healthy and our job is to save lives. So it’s very much our lane,” Dr. Lopez said. “It’s been heartening to see so many physicians post their experiences” on social media in response to the NRA tweet.
Some doctors say it isn’t the profession’s role to promote measures that limit access to guns. Dr. Arthur Z. Przebinda, a diagnostic imaging specialist in California and project director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, says physicians “would be in their lane if they pursued better surgical techniques, better postoperative treatments,” but not in calling for gun restrictions. His group is a project of the Second Amendment Foundation, which defends gun rights.
Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said firearm homicide rates in 2015 and 2016 rose back to levels seen during 2006 and 2007. Firearm suicide rates continued to increase, a trend since the economic downturn of 2007 and 2008. Overall, there were 27,392 firearm homicides and 44,950 firearm suicides in 2015 and 2016, the CDC said.
The American Medical Association, which has about 243,000 members, in 2016 declared gun violence a national public-health crisis. The group has supported several gun-control measures including expanding background checks to all firearm purchasers, and requiring safety instruction and registration for all firearms. AMA also supports greater federal funding of research on firearm violence, which has been cut over the past two decades.
This week, AMA delegates are considering a resolution to support the ban of 3-D printed guns that can’t be detected by ordinary airport screening machines.
The AMA previously joined a successful court effort to overturn a 2011 Florida law that forbade doctors from asking patients about gun ownership.
“We think taking this out of the arena of politics and putting it into the arena of public health is a way for our country to come forward and overcome the political roadblocks that have been there for many years,” Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, president of the AMA, said in an interview.
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