Gun violence is a terrifying epidemic in America. Schools, churches, movie theaters, stores, concerts, festivals – each the site of recent domestic terror. But consider that those tragedies represent less than 1% of gun-related deaths in our nation (according to the CDC), and you’ll see what doctors see – a shocking and overwhelming number of victims (more than 40,000 each year) from gun violence that represents a major health crisis in our country. Those doctors believe they can help solve this crisis in the same way they helped lead life-saving efforts with car safety, tobacco, and HIV/AIDS – through research.
“The only thing worse than a death is a death that can be prevented,” said Dr. Ronnie Stewart, in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning
Doctors are no longer holding their tongue about the problem and they aren’t backing down from their fiercest opposition – the NRA. After the NRA tweet-accused doctors of being “self-important” and “anti-gun,” and told them to “stay in their lane,” Dr. Stephanie Bonne responded acutely with:
“Wanna see my lane? Here’s the chair I sit in when I tell parents their kids are dead. How dare you tell me I can’t research evidence-based solutions.”
Dr. Bonne started the hashtag #thisISourlane and inspired a collective movement among doctors across the nation.
In a first-ever meeting of its kind, more than 40 medical organizations joined forces in Chicago this past year to address the overwhelming challenge of gun-related deaths. These organizations typically work independently in their fields, but the accusations and attack by the NRA prompted this collaboration. They are pooling their shared knowledge and industry standard of “do no harm,” and fueling a research-based approach to take this head-on. Some, like Dr. Garen Wintemunte, have invested their own money for research:
“People are dying. Given the capacity to do it, how can I not? It really is just that simple.” (CBS Sunday Morning)
This group of medical professionals wants to cause change. They know that budget reallocations within the CDC have set us back more than 20 years in preventing gun-related deaths. So they’ve pushed for refunding and have been able to reclaim some budget dollars as well as utilize private donations for research. They’ve uncovered gaps in information-sharing by local, state and federal authorities, which led to gun deaths. Ultimately, doctors believe the medical field can drive the solution to gun violence by leading with fact-based research and collaboration:
“We’re not well-served by this overly-simplistic view of simply two sides fighting each other. We have to work together. And that includes engaging firearm owners as a part of the solution, not a part of the problem,” says Dr. Stewart.
Their candor is powerful – their position is rooted in research, facts and truth, and their mission is clear. More so, their resolve is inspiring and essential to saving lives.