Exploring Human Potential

Giving Thanks: Medicine vs. the NRA

Posted on | November 19, 2018 | 2 Comments

Mike Magee

This Thanksgiving, I send a special “thank you” to physicians nationwide who refused to buckle to the NRA’s demand that they “stay in their lane”, and stood up for kids across America.

There can be little debate that gun violence is a serious health risk, and that the NRA is enabler in chief. Back on February 18, 2018, four days after the Parkland, Florida school shootings, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) challenged Congress directly to “take firm action to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.”

Now a Stanford study on pediatric gun violence has ignited additional physician resistance. The facts:

1. 2,715 children died of gun injuries in 2015 – 62% homicides and 31% suicides.

2. Twice as many kids died in states with weak gun control laws (5/100,000) compared to states with strong gun control laws (2.6/100,000).

3. In states with laws that require specific limits to child access to guns in the home, pediatric suicides were 4 times less likely (.63/100,000) than in states without protected access (2.57/100,000).

4. Nearly half of the states (23) have no Child Access Prevention (safe storage or gun lock) laws in place.

5. In the 12 states with universal background check laws, pediatric deaths from gunshot wounds were 1/3 less likely (3.8/100,000) than in the 38 states lacking these laws (5.7/100,000).

6. In the 5 states that require background checks to buy ammunition, there were only 2.3 deaths/100,000 compared to unprotected states (5.6/100,000).

In years past, doctors have been too timid on this issue. But two years of constant assault on human dignity, paired with an increasingly tone-deaf NRA in the wake of the Parkland shootings and other mass disasters, have pushed the majority of physicians into an activist stance.



The American College of Physicians targeted the NRA in a position paper on October 30, 2018 titled, “Reducing Firearm Injuries and Deaths.”

That drew the NRA response  labelling the statement as “every anti-gunner’s public policy wish list, save for the outsized role given to doctors,” and accusing ACP members as “only interested in pseudo­science ‘evidence’ that supports their preferred anti-gun policies.”

Then, on November 7, 2018, as the dust was settling from the mass shooting at Thousand Oaks, CA, the NRA’s leadership felt comfortable taking on organized medicine and caring health professionals everywhere, tweeting “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”

Johns Hopkins trauma surgeon, Joseph Sakran blasted back, “I have Two Words for you Hell No! #Hell No for #ThousandOaks #Hell No for all black men that die & no one hears about it. #Hell No for all those that we still may be able to save.”



The CDC and AMA have taken a stand. And in the wake of the NRA scolding, the ACP invited physicians to sign on to a letter challenging the NRA. Within 48 hours, 23,000 physicians did.

As many commentators have noted, the one silver lining to the past two years has been that President Trump is stress testing the durability of our democratic institutions and our fundamental “goodness” as Americans.

Nearly twenty years ago, our studies clearly demonstrated that patients rely on doctors to deliver three things: compassion, understanding, and partnership. Traditionally, this has occurred in private, behind closed doors. But now we must not only heal and provide health, but also offer leadership that will keep our communities and America whole.

These are not normal times. I give thanks that we physicians understand that Americans and our form of government are now fundamentally at risk and need our full engagement. In rising to this challenge, we are discovering our public voice and our finer selves.


2 Responses to “Giving Thanks: Medicine vs. the NRA”

  1. azure
    November 23rd, 2018 @ 5:31 pm

    ” compassion, understanding, and partnership” I applaud the actions of all the MDs/health care providers and physician organizations mentioned, but I can’t say that my interactions with health care providers, including a surgeon, in the past 3 years, have been marked by any of those 3 virtues.

    That’s also been the experience of a number of my friends & clients. Have I ever had a treating physician who possessed those qualities? Yes. An internist, a woman, who left & is still missed the clinic I get care at, and who I have since heard has quit practicing medicine. She wasn’t particularly fond of corporate health (health care “chains) care employment where MDs are given high quotas of # of patients to see/day. She’s a real loss to the profession, she was a good diagnostician and cared about her patients.

  2. Mike Magee
    November 26th, 2018 @ 8:53 am

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. As I’ve said before, “Physicians are neither saints nor sinners, but human beings like you and I.” In selecting and training doctors, when it comes to empathy, studies show we get it right about 2/3’s of the time. For a portion of the 1/3 where we miss the mark, patients in their interaction sometimes find a way of unlocking the resource. For other doctors, they never rise tot he occasion. New forms of curriculum for medical school may improve our performance. Time will tell.

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