It is kind of funny how things get started. A medical publication stated the obvious that guns are a health problem in out society. The NRA hit back with what has become an infamous reply, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”
All I could do is laugh. I have been a trauma surgeon for over 25 years. I have seen the cost of gun violence on our society. I will never forgot telling a beautiful recently married 20-something that her 6’3” mountain of a husband was dead. I was in a room surrounded by 20 or 30 police officers. The window’s husband was the first through the door in a drug raid. He was wearing a bulletproof vest. The bullet that killed this police officer went through his arm hole and torn his aorta. Then, there was the pregnant woman and her boyfriend who were shot in the drive-thru. There was the 8 year old who shot his 4 year old brother when he found a loaded gun. There was the man who was accidentally shot through the wall of his apartment and is now paralyzed for life. There are thousands and thousands of stories. The only common theme in all of these tales is guns.
I understand that logic and thoughtful discussion seem to be dead in our society. Yet, I refuse to give up my responsibility as a trauma surgeon to advocate for my patients. No matter how you look at the problem, guns are at the root of the gun violence problem. Let’s not get distracted by the rhetoric which usually escalates into nonsense.
Let’s remember that we, physicians, have fought impossible odds before. We told America that cigarettes were killing Americans. We got a huge amount of push back. The tobacco industry told us stupid nonsense that there was no good solid proof that cigarettes caused lung cancer. Remember that? Remember a side argument that many Americans were sustaining terrible burns when they fell asleep while smoking and their mattress and sheets would go up in flames. The tobacco industry had us believing that the problem was the flammability of mattresses? We are going thru the same nonsense now as the NRA is telling that guns aren’t the problem, people who misuse guns are the problem.
There is a great line in the famous movie, The Blues Brothers, in which Jake asks his brother how often does the train pass by as the apartment is shaking from the vibration from the train passing and his brother answers, “So often, you do not even notice it.” Unfortunately, this is where we are with gun violence. Your regular, garden-variety, shooting almost is so commonplace that it almost does not make the local paper. Mass shootings have happened so often, we can not remember them all. So far, this year, mass shootings are happening at a rate of more than one per month. We have had the Thousand Oaks shooting in which 12 people died, we had the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in which 11 people died. There was a warehouse shooting in Maryland in which three people died. There was a shooting in Bakersfield, California in which five people died. There was a bank shooting in Cincinnati in which five people died. There is a shooting at a paper in Annapolis in which five people died. There is the famous Santa Fe high school shooting in which 10 people died. Does anybody remember the Waffle House shooting from earlier this year in Nashville, Tennessee in which four people died? There was a veterans home shooting in which three people died. There was a tragic Parkland high school shooting in which 17 people died. Finally, there was a shooting at a car wash in Pennsylvania in which four people died. All of the shootings occurred this year. The fact that we do not remember all of them is telling.
So, I have a choice. I could ignore my responsibility as a physician or I can embrace my responsibility. I choose the latter. I will fight for my patients. I will fight for every American’s constitutional right to live and breathe without being shot. I know and understand that gun control and sensible gun legislation will not fix every single problem. I will not be side tracked by nonsense arguments, like arguing that mattresses were the problem in cigarette fires. I understand and will continue to fight for a comprehensive solution to this complex problem. This is my stance because THIS IS MY LANE!