An Open Letter to the NRA from America’s Health Care Providers
This is Our Lane
Dear National Rifle Association,
On Wednesday night (11/7/2018), in response to a position paper released by the American College of Physicians (ACP) Reducing Firearm Injuries and Death in the United States, your organization published the statement “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” On that same day, the CDC published new data indicating that the death toll from gun violence in our nation continues to rise. As we read your demand for us doctors to stay in our lane, we awoke to learn of the 307th mass shooting in 2018 with another 12 innocent lives lost to an entirely preventable cause of death–gun violence.
Every medical professional practicing in the United States has seen enough gun violence tragedy firsthand to deeply understand the toll that this public health crisis is taking on our children, families, and entire communities. It is long past time for us to acknowledge the crisis is real, devastating, and has root causes that can be addressed to assuage the damage. We must ALL come together to find meaningful solutions to this very American problem of bloodshed due to firearm injury. We, medical professionals, are the ones who race to the aid of victims to stop the bleeding and repair the wounds. Too often, we must dig deep into our own souls to break the unthinkable news as we hold the hands of the grieving loved ones who will leave our hospitals with only a memory of a beloved one, in the aftermath of a shooting.
We, the undersigned – physicians, nurses, therapists, and medical professionals – want to tell you that we are absolutely “in our lane” when we propose solutions to prevent death and disability from gun violence.
As the professionals who manage this epidemic, we bear witness to every trauma resuscitation, regardless of outcome.
- We cut open chests and hold hearts in our hands in the hopes of bringing them back to life.
- We do our best to repair the damage from high capacity bullets on pulverized organs and splintered bones.
- We care for the survivors of firearm injury for decades after they’ve been paralyzed, lost a limb, or been disabled.
- We deliver mental health care to the siblings and parents of the children who have been shot as well as to the survivors of gun violence.
- We treat the anxiety of teachers and students who are already traumatized by the news of mass shootings who are then are asked to participate in active shooter drills in their own schools.
- We prepare for mass casualty shootings with drills ourselves and practice sorting victims by how life-threatening their injuries are while fervently hoping that a mass shooting never touches our own communities.
- We are asked by families, schools, employers and law enforcement to conduct mental health evaluations and threat assessments of individuals who demonstrate dangerous behaviors with legally-owned firearms – yet we have no protocols to decrease firearm risk when they present to us.
- We support our own medical colleagues as they themselves must recover from the psychological trauma of being first responders to mass shootings.
- We design trauma protocols to reduce the loss of life from even the most horrific gunshot wounds.
- We train civilians to carry and use tourniquets to #stop the bleed, something that should be necessary on battlefields but not in American grade school classrooms.
- We conduct research to stop the epidemic of gun violence before it happens through community, point of care, and after care interventions with our patients and communities.
- We hold the hands of gunshot victims taking their final breaths.
- We cry ourselves as we tell shell-shocked parents that their child has been shot and that we did our best.
- We escort parents into our treatment rooms to take one last look at their dead child before they have been able to process the news.
- We see firsthand how a single moment ends a life and forevers changes the lives of survivors, families, and entire communities.
Our research efforts have been curtailed by your lobbying efforts to Congress. Even today, the Dickey Amendment remains the law of the land, and our United States Congress has failed to appropriate funds to allow us to use our education, training, and skills to conduct the research and implement the results to prevent death and disability from gun violence, a true public health crisis. We ask that you join forces with us to find solutions. Help us lobby for research dollars or invest in our own physician-driven research efforts at AFFIRM Research.
Be part of the solution.
NRA, you dismissed the ACP’s position statement on preventing death and injury from gun violence by stating, “Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.” We extend our invitation for you to collaborate with us to find workable, effective strategies to diminish the death toll from suicide, homicide, domestic violence, and unintentional shootings for the thousands of Americans who will one day find themselves on the wrong side of a barrel of a gun.
As Americans continue to die from gunshot wounds almost daily in our schools, our celebrations, our theaters, and in a host of other public and private settings, we invite you to help us reduce gun violence. We are not anti-gun. We are anti-bullet hole. Almost half of doctors own guns. Let’s work together. You have stated that you invested in gun safety. We welcome your input.
We would like your help. However, be aware that we will move forward, with or without you. We won’t be stopped. We will continue to speak on behalf of our patients and our communities. The health of all Americans is our job. Join us in our lane in protecting the health and safety of our communities, or move over!
This is our lane.
This letter was signed by more than 41,000 health care providers. Thank you for your support.