Physicians should never leave the lane of gun violence

Anyone following the debate around gun regulation knows it is a hotly charged issue. On November 7th, doctors got dragged front and center after the NRA issued the statement: “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.” This was in response to an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Coincidentally, hours following this tweet, twelve people were killed by guns in California.

In response to the NRA telling doctors to stay in our own lane, doctors took to social media using the hashtags #ThisIsMyLane  and #ThisIsOurLane. Doctors refuted the fact that the NRA holds the sole ownership of the conversation around gun violence and that, since doctors are the ones that treat the victims of gunshot wounds, the lane in fact belongs to us. An open letter was drafted by the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine telling the NRA the reasons the lane belongs to us and that we will not stop speaking out or conducting researching into gun safety.

Doctors fall on all sides of the political spectrum. Among us, there are some who believe guns should be more regulated and some who feel it infringes on our second amendment rights. However, when a victim of a gunshot comes to us for medical care, we step up and do the job, no matter our political leanings. That alone gives up the right to speak up on the issue of gun violence. When I said this on Twitter, I was told to shut up and that doctors do not have any authority to speak on the issue. In essence, there are those who want to take away our first amendment rights to protect their second amendment ones.

Doctors have a duty, not only for an individual’s health and safety, but to population health and safety as well. While, yes, guns are just an inanimate object that don’t kill without a person using them, the people being killed by them are our issue. People should not have bullet holes in them. Innocent victims, including children, are killed by guns. What about their rights to life? Don’t they count for anything?

The Second Amendment is a very important one. As Americans, we should be allowed to protect ourselves. But, we can’t do this while we ignore the innocent people who are dying. We don’t want to take guns away from anyone. But, we want them to be used responsibly.

As long as we are called to treat those torn apart by the trajectories of bullets, we cannot leave the lane encompassing gun violence. Who else will try to save the victims? When we are the ones notifying the families when their loved ones died from bullet wounds, we cannot do it from across the highway. When we look at the dead faces of those we are unable to save from gunshot wounds, we cannot stay silent. When the victims come to us years later with chronic pain or mental health issues because of the bullet holes, we must advocate for them. And most importantly, we must continue our research into gun violence and find ways to prevent it.

Linda Girgis is a family physician who blogs at Dr. Linda.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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