Last week, hours before the slaughter of 12 people at a country music bar in Thousand Oaks, CA., our 307th mass shooting this year, the ever-judicious NRA denounced doctors and other health care professionals—those steadfast, often blood-soaked heroes who daily labor to pick up the shattered pieces from NRA-funded carnage universally deemed a public health crisis, who for years “have seen and heard things that cannot be unseen and unheard”—for daring to seek to reduce gun violence.
Citing a recent paper on the epidemic from the American College of Physicians titled, “Reducing Firearm Injuries and Death in the United States,” the ghouls at the NRA sneered, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”
This, from a grotesque group that for years has blindly denied culpability for the butchery, or recognized that parents burying children and teachers practising lockdowns are in all our lanes.
They have derided gun-control efforts by doctors as a tired “hobby,” lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from even discussing or researching gun violence, simultaneously, disingenuously blamed video games and mental health and late-night hosts and pretty much anything but guns for the bloodshed as they continued to view anyone who stood between them and their grisly paychecks—kids in school, people at a nightclub, people praying—as “just another problem,” and, in 2016, successfully brought a lawsuit to block a law passed by California voters banning the kind of high capacity magazine most recently used by…the Thousand Oaks shooter.
That massacre, along with the NRA’s heedless charge doctors “have consulted NO ONE but themselves,” was too much for those who daily “cut open chests and hold hearts in our hands (and try) to repair the damage from bullets on pulverized organs and splintered bones.”
Their seething response included op-eds—“Anyone who has ever worked in a trauma bay can remember the visceral cry of a parent who has just been informed their son or daughter has died at the hand of a gun…This is our lane”—and an open letter to the NRA from doctors who “bear witness to every trauma…regardless of outcome.”
Along with surgeries, they write, they tend for decades to the paralyzed or disabled, offer mental health care to families and survivors, treat trauma among teachers, students, colleagues, train civilians to #StopTheBleed—a protocol for battlefields, not classrooms—hold the hands of victims taking their final breaths, and “escort parents into our treatment rooms to take one last look at their dead child.” “We invite you to be part of the solution,” they end. “We are not anti-gun. We are anti-bullet hole.”
The most searing rebuke to the NRA came from doctors posting heart-rending stories and blood-spattered pictures on #ThisIsEveryone’sLane and #ThisisMyLane. “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly?” fumed a forensic pathologist. “This isn’t just my lane. It’s my fucking highway.”
That relentless sense of “just another day in America” is palpable in other posts. On bloodied scrubs: “This is what it looks like to stay in #mylane. I speak out for this patient, for their parents who will never be the same, for every person who came after this one and didn’t have to.” From others: “16 y/o GSW to the Aorta. @NRA his mother is in the waiting room. Should you tell her he didnt make it? Didnt think so…”
My lane is a pregnant woman shot in a moment of rage by her partner. She survived because the baby stopped the bullet. Have you ever had to deliver a shattered baby?…My lane included caring for paraplegic 25 year old now opiate-addicted after drive-by shooting afraid of everything…A beautiful 3 year old shot by a 5 year old ‘just playing.’ A hole in his chest, his back was shredded. No chance at survival. #ThisISMyLane.”
Joshua Corsa, a former Army medic and senior surgical resident, spent many grim hours treating the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, where 49 people died. Later, he posted on Facebook a photo of his bloodied sneakers, not even a week old. He later explained why he would keep wearing them: “On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings. I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were Hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death. And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care…This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever.”
The just-elected Democrat-controlled House will boast up to two dozen new gun control advocates; they will now be joined by scores of doctors passionately citing experiences they demand must be heeded, rejecting the power of the NRA, and declaiming to them, “You’re here to make money and we’re here to save lives. Get out of our lane.”
Their voices, based on grisly, intimate, unceasing knowledge of what bullets do to bodies, carry a singular weight. “Unless you’ve had someone’s heart stop beating in your hands,” says one trauma surgeon, “you don’t get to tell those of us who have what is and is not our ‘lane’.” Or, more succinctly, “Unless you’ll (treat and) transport my patients dying from gunshot wounds to the OR for me, shut the fuck up.”
Abby Zimet is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License