Last week our friends at The Trace published an article on a brief but noisy exchange which broke out between a group of ER doctors and the NRA. The physicians have put up a website which claims to be collecting and distributing funds that will be awarded to gun researchers to make up for gun-research dollars no longer provided by the CDC. The NRA is the NRA.
This same bunch of physicians, whose gun-violence research credentials are impeccable, also put up a chain letter that could be sent to the NRA. The letter was in response to an op-ed on the NRA website which basically told the medical community to stick its concerns about guns you know where. The NRA editorial was the organization’s response to yet another medical article which found that, believe it or not, a connection between guns and gun injuries. Gee, what a surprise. And of course it’s even a bigger surprise that the NRA would deny that such a connection even exists.
Physicians and public health researchers have been publishing credible research on gun violence for more than twenty-five years. Know what these well-meaning and dedicated researchers have gotten for all their efforts? The elimination of CDC funding for gun research. That’s it. Period. Zilch. In fact, over the last several years, gun-violence rates appear to be going back up. Oh well, oh well. Maybe another research article on gun violence will push the rates back down, right? Wrong.
The good news, of course, is that the physicians who want you to sign their chain letter to the NRA also happen to be members of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the folks who usually have to figure out how to keep someone alive who has a bullet in their head. And they are remarkably skilled in this respect; of the 75,000 or so who suffer injuries from gun assaults each year, only 12,000 or so end up dead. The rest come back to the hospital on a much too-frequent basis and after a few more visits, also end up dead.
And how does the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) respond to this problem? They give substantial financial support to the politicians who make a career goal out of preventing even the most minimal gun reforms from moving ahead.
How does this happen? It happens because the ACEP has a PAC which over the last two election cycles donated almost $150,000 to the election campaigns of 15 House members who are rated A+ by the NRA. The NRA gives an A rating to just about every member of the House GOP caucus, but these 15 are in a group all their own. They are the spear-carriers, the most pro-gun guys in Congress, and they do whatever is necessary to make sure that no gun legislation rears its ugly head.
So here we have a remarkable situation in which some physicians use social media to advance their gun-control agendas (and their public personalities) while their professional organization uses their dues monies to advance the cause of the NRA. Now you would think that when a doctor named Michael Siegel began writing about this issue, his concerns would be shared and amplified by the members of APEC who would like you to believe they are tirelessly working to end gun violence, right? Wrong again.
The Trace article quotes one of the self-appointed, gun-violence leaders of the medical community, Garen Wintemute, who says that physicians should ‘privately’ approach politicians about gun violence because to raise these issues publicly would be ‘divisive’ and would hurt “relationships with elected officials with whom they work on a range of policies”.
Let me break the news to you gently Garen – you don’t know what you’re talking about, but God forbid you would admit to nec sciunt quicquam and keep your mouth shut. More than any other profession, doctors should be the loudest and most vociferous contributors to the public debate on gun violence, which means first and foremost telling public officials to stop being handmaidens for the NRA.