The National Rifle Association seems to have landed itself in the crosshairs of thousands of doctors on Twitter, following its scathing response to a statement by the American College of Physicians, in which the APC declared gun violence a “public health crisis.”
The ACP’s position statement, published Oct. 30 in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine, reaffirms the 154,000-member group’s advocacy for “policies to reduce the rate of firearm injuries and deaths in the United States,” and calls for measures including a “universal background check system” that effectively keeps guns away from felons, substance abusers, domestic violence offenders and those prone to violence due to mental illness, a reevaluation of concealed carry laws, the addition of safety-related features to firearms, and banning the sale and manufacture of weapons and features designed to “increase rapid killing capacity.” The statement also recommends increasing government funding for studies on the effects of gun violence.
In response to the ACP, the NRA shot back on Twitter with a recommendation of their own: that “self-important anti-gun doctors should stay in their lane.” They capped off their tweet with an accusation that “the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves” in pushing for gun control.
The NRA’s tweet triggered a firestorm of over 21,000 responses, many of which were from doctors relaying their experiences treating gunshot trauma in defense of the ACP’s stance. “I see no one from the @nra next to me in the trauma bay as I have cared for victims of gun violence for the past 25 years,” tweeted Dr. Marianne Haughey. “THAT must be MY lane. COME INTO MY LANE. Tell one mother her child is dead with me, then we can talk.”
Other tweets included pictures of bloody bullets, or blood splotches on the floor of areas where emergency surgeries were performed on gunshot victims, with captions similar in spirit to this one from @BromoSouthern: “Single GSW to the head as a drive by. Surprisingly little blood, but plenty of blood curdling screams from this middle schoolers mother when we told her that her baby was dead. Tell me @NRA how do I get her screams out of my head 4 years later?”
In addition, the NRA’s assertion that many doctors hold an anti-gun bias was challenged by Dr. Christine Laine, editor in chief of the Annals of Internal Medicine. In a statement to the New York Times, Dr. Laine responded, “Annals of Internal Medicine is not anti-gun; we are anti-bullet holes in people.” Laine further described her journal’s “bias” as “toward counseling our patients to reduce their risk of firearm injury and toward evidence-based solutions to the public health crisis that firearm injury has become.”
Some spoke in defense of the NRA’s tweet, such as Dr. Robert Young, psychiatrist and member of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership. Young, editor of the DROC website, believes that organizations such as the APC assume an expertise in medical science leaves one sufficiently equipped to dictate gun safety policies. Young cites experience training in gun ownership–which he says many physicians lack–as a necessary component of knowing how to safely handle a firearm.
While the majority of doctor responses to the NRA’s tweet seemed to be advocating for gun control, many (if not most) doctors, such as Dr. Haughey, take a nuanced stance when it comes to actual policy. In an interview with the New York Times, Haughey reflects on a time when, at a conference, she heard a doctor’s speak about how her father used a gun to successfully ward off an assailant. Haughey believes in finding a compromise between ownership and regulation, and that having such a conversation must involve the entire country, including doctors.