This Is My Lane

by Melissa Parsons MD  @MEParsonsMD

My dad didn’t have any sons, so I got to break all the stereotypical gender roles. I was taught to hunt at a young age, received my first shotgun at the age of 12, and have been surprising people for decades when I let my long blond hair fall out from underneath my camo hat. My upbringing taught me a healthy respect for guns, fear of what they can do, and knowledge of how to use them safely.  I still hunt each year and own guns – between my husband and I – many guns. They are kept in a gun safe.

I very strongly believe in my second amendment right to bear arms. Many arms. Politically, I would call myself conservative and often vote Republican. For the last year, I have stayed very quiet on the topic of gun violence, despite being a witness to it at least weekly. Why? Because as a conservative, camo-wearing, duck-hunting, gun-owning Republican, I should theoretically support the NRA. Right? So I stayed quiet. That is until the NRA made their comment aimed at physicians – a comment that said the following: “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 comment was in response to the position paper publication by the American College of Physicians (ACP) on reducing firearm injuries and deaths, which states: “The American College of Physicians recommends a public health approach to firearms-related violence and the prevention of firearm injuries and deaths.”

As an emergency medicine physician, I take care of patients suffering from gunshot wounds (GSW’s) almost every shift. I have seen officers wounded in the line of duty, people badly injured by a gun misfire, and young teenagers wounded in the all too regular drive-by shootings of my hospital’s neighborhood. I will never forget the eerie silence of my ambulance bay where I stood staring at a car, riddled with bullet holes, engine still running with pools of blood on the floorboards.  The blood belonged to my two elderly patients. And their grandchild. Two of the three were in the operating room- still alive. The other was deceased in my trauma bay. The car’s engine just kept running – it was evidence. I will never forget having to tell a friend that I could not save her teenage son from his multiple GSWs. I still hug her extra close 3 years later. I am a professional at saving lives, and yet I am forced to call time of death on too many victims of gun violence.

As doctors, we like to use evidence and research to practice GOOD medicine, which we call evidence-based medicine.  We prove that medications and treatments will help patients. Then we do it. However, when it comes to gun violence, we have NO evidence or research to show us how to decrease this epidemic.  We NEED research to find ways to create change. We HAVE TO study the public health implications of gun violence and how we can improve this crisis in our society. At this time, we are unable to get that data.  Banning guns or preventing people from exercising their right to bear arms is not the answer.  But burying our head in the sand isn’t either. The American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM), a research organization co-founded by Megan Ranney MD, an EM Physician, has asked the NRA to join forces in order to find solutions.  And I quote, “Help us in our non-partisan, physician-driven research efforts at AFFIRM Research… We are not anti-gun. We are anti-bullet hole. Let’s work together. Join us, or move over! This is our lane.

This is our lane.  If the mass shootings were an infectious outbreak that had occurred 307 times already this year, society would be clamoring for physicians to solve the public health problem, to find a cure.  Gun violence is a public health problem. It is the epidemic of our time. And to find a cure, we need data. I am tired of telling family members that I was unable to save a life due to gun violence. I am tired of mass shootings.  And I am tired of my stepdaughters going to school each day scared that their school will be next.

I am not anti-gun.  I am anti-bullet hole.  

#ThisIsMyLane #ThisIsOurLane #StayingMyLane #WeNeedResearch

Where We Need More Research

  • To realize gun violence is an epidemic and eliminate the federal funding restrictions on gun violence research.
  • Private sector investment is necessary for the public’s health.  Even if CDC gets appropriations, the amount of money will be insufficient compared to what is needed.  Furthermore, research funding for gun violence prevention has been weaponized, and there is a perennial risk that any CDC funding, if appropriated, could be revoked again.  Funding for gun violence prevention research, and for evidence-based prevention programs that derive from it, needs an independent, and secure, private sector home. Just as the American Cancer Society was started in response to a perceived societal need – and continues to be needed today – similarly, AFFIRM’s strategy is needed to fill the long-standing deficits in science and implementation, even if federal funding were to materialize
  • To research gun violence like we have researched motor vehicle collisions and associated deaths.  Our country was able to save lives without banning cars. Let’s figure out how to live safely with guns in our environment without banning guns.
  • To study what impact physician counseling has on firearms injury prevention and suicide, and how to improve it.

Melissa Parsons MD  @MEParsonsMD

Assistant Professor
Assistant Residency Director
University of Florida College of Medicine -Jacksonville
*Please note these represent my opinions and not the views of my institution.*