After the National Rifle Association accused doctors of being “self-important,” saying their “collective hobby is opining on firearms policy,” the medical community took to Twitter to express exactly why doctors and nurses are positioned and qualified to discuss gun violence.
The online movement, which began last week and continued into the weekend, rallied around the hashtags #stayinmylane and #thisISmylane. The NRA’s tweeted criticism, meanwhile, was released the same day as the Thousand Oaks shooting, in which a gunman killed 12 people.
The tweets provide a graphic look into the hands-on experiences of medical professionals who work with patients clinging to life after suffering gunshot wounds. The hashtags are a twist on the NRA’s contention that “someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist who has worked with victims of gun violence, summed up her feelings with the response that gun control is not just her lane, it’s her “fucking highway.”
The argument shared by the many doctors, nurses, and radiologists participating in the social media response is that it is them, and not the NRA, who bear the first-hand witness to the bloody and tragic aftermath of gun violence. Many speak of the pain of not being able to save their patients and the hardship of sharing the news with the patients’ families.
Other medical professionals took the direct approach of providing photographs they’d taken in the aftermath of attempting to save the lives of victims.
The images below may be disturbing to some readers.
The NRA’s criticism of the medical community, laid out in a statement released November 2 and then the tweet on November 7, was in response to an October report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In the report, representatives of the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommended a “public health approach to firearms-related violence and the prevention of firearm injuries and deaths.” The position paper labels American gun violence a “public health crisis” and offers policy recommendations like requiring a criminal background check and an “appropriate educational program on firearms safety” before an individual can buy a gun. They write:
“The medical profession has a special responsibility to speak out on prevention of firearm-related injuries and deaths, just as physicians have spoken out on other public health issues. Physicians should counsel patients on the risk of having firearms in the home, particularly when children, adolescents, people with dementia, people with mental illnesses, people with substance use disorders, or others who are at increased risk of harming themselves or others are present.”
The NRA alleges that the studies the ACP used to back up its policy recommendations aren’t sound, writing that, “for all the bluster about [the medical community’s] own important role in the anti-gun movement and all of the misuse of research findings, the ACP makes one thing clear: they respect their own rights and opinions far more than they do those of law-abiding gun owners.”
In a report released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the health protection agency states that gun-related deaths are now on the rise in the United States after a decade-long decline. More than 33,000 Americans die from firearm-related deaths every year and, as of this article’s publication, there have been 307 mass shootings in 2018.