Over 26K emergency medical professionals sign open letter to NRA
Over 26,000 paramedics, ER doctors and other medical professionals signed an open letter to the NRA, headlined "Gun Violence Is Our Lane"
By Jenny Deam
WASHINGTON — Emergency room physicians did not take kindly to being scolded last week by the National Rifle Association to "stay in their lane" and not get involved in the nation's gun debate.
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. https://t.co/oCR3uiLtS7— NRA (@NRA) November 7, 2018
As of Monday morning, 26,000 doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers and other health professionals, including some in Houston, signed an open letter to the NRA, penned Friday night and headlined "Gun Violence Is Our Lane." In addition, the hashtag #ThisISOurLane is spreading around the globe.
"As an emergency physician, I see the injuries and death toll from guns as part of my daily routine," said Dr. Cedric Dark, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine who also treats patients at Ben Taub Hospital, one of the nation's busiest Level I trauma centers.
The damage a gun can do to a body haunts him. He remembers one little boy, about the same age as his own son, who was in a car sprayed with gunfire in a drive-by shooting a few years back. The child survived, but a bullet shattered one of his bones.
"He's just a kid riding in a car. Whenever you see kids shot, especially your own kid's age, it really makes you angry. There's absolutely nothing you can do as a toddler to deserve that," he said.
Dark is a gun owner and believes he is uniquely qualified to see all sides of the debate. And he certainly will not be silenced.
"To be clear: We are not anti-gun. We are anti-bullet hole," the doctors' open letter to the NRA said.
The NRA did not respond to an emailed request for comment Monday.
The dust-up began Oct. 30 after a position paper by doctors was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, an academic medical journal published by the American College of Physicians. The physician authors called for gun violence to be treated as a public health crisis and urged what they called reasonable restrictions on gun purchases as well as more governmental study. They also asked for the freedom to speak to patients about gun safety.
Three days later, the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action responded with its own position paper that began: "Everyone has hobbies. Some doctors' collective hobby is opining on firearms policy."
Things really heated up last Wednesday when the NRA, in promoting its paper, tweeted: "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane."
And with that, it was on.
Doctors around the country quickly slammed the NRA, carrying #ThisISOurLane" into battle in the newly declared Twitter war.
"Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn't just my lane. It's my (expletive) highway," a San Francisco pathologist tweeted. Other doctors began posting their blood-splattered faces after treating gunshot victims.
Then hours after the NRA sent its tweet, a gunman opened fire at a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Thirteen people were dead, including a police officer and the shooter. Many others were wounded. One of the dead had survived the mass shooting in Las Vegas just a year before.
"It didn't even make 12 hours until the next shooting," Dark said.
The notion that doctors who spend careers trying to save shooting victims should keep quiet infuriates Rhonda Hart, a Texas mother whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, died May 18 in the Santa Fe High School massacre.
"The short answer is the NRA needs to shut up," Hart said Monday when asked about the battle between the doctors and the gun lobby. "The longer answer is I think the doctors are right. They have probably the best perspective on this, except for maybe family members."
So far this year there have been 12,626 deaths and 24,533 injuries involving guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that produces an online tracking of incidents collected from thousands of news media, law enforcement records and government sources each day. Advocacy groups say gun death and injury numbers are difficult to tally.
The gun lobby has argued that the data is one-sided and does not include evidence that guns can help thwart violence.
Still, research has been in short supply for more than two decades, ever since in 1996 it mostly ground to a stop after Congress threatened to strip Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding unless it halted studies on firearm injury and death.
Earlier this year, though, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he favored restarting the research.
Dr. Megan Ranney, a Rhode Island physician and chief research officer for AFFIRM, a national nonprofit organization that studies gun violence, wrote the doctors' letter to the NRA in response to the rapidly escalating events and, in part, out of frustration.
"With each time, we say this is the tipping point," she said Monday about mass shootings.
The letter describes how even if a victim survives a shooting, there is a lifelong toll, both physical and psychological.
"Stitching up a wound in an operating room is not the end, but the beginning," it said.
On Monday she admitted she was surprised by the number of doctors who have signed on for the fight and the attention it is stirring. She said she was scheduled to be interviewed by the BBC later in the day.
"I think the time is here," she said.
Copyright 2018 Houston Chronicle