Physicians to NRA: This Is Our Lane

Alicia Ault

November 09, 2018

The National Rifle Association (NRA) may have picked the wrong fight when it took on the nation's physicians.

After reading an American College of Physicians (ACP) position paper on how to reduce firearm deaths that was published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the gun rights organization on November 2 published a takedown of the paper, concluding, "The ACP is apparently only interested in pseudo-science 'evidence' that supports their preferred anti-gun policies."

The NRA then posted a tweet on November 7 that was as sure to get attention as it was to rankle many physicians: "Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves."

First picked up by NBC News, the NRA tweet unleashed a tweetstorm from physicians who quickly grouped their responses under the hashtag #ThisIsOurLane.

Eric Toschlog, MD (@etoscho), responding to the NRA, tweeted, "I am a trauma surgeon and a gun owner. I took an oath. I own this lane."

Emergency department physician Elizabeth Meade, MD (@EMeadeMD), responded, "My 'lane' is the ER when kids come in shot in the face. When we tell parents they won't walk or are going to die. We're not anti-gun, we are anti-preventable death. We want ️#safestorage, [lower] ️#suicide deaths. We want to talk about firearm safety. We want our patients to survive."

At the start of the day on November 9, at least 145 tweets per hour were being posted using #ThisIsOurLane, according to Hashtags.org, which tracks use of hashtags on Twitter.

On that day, Melissa Stone, MD (@amongthygreen), tweeted, "@NRA As a gerontologist, it is my place to counsel older adults about guns in the house, safety precautions, and suicidality, as older men are particularly at risk of self-inflicted gun violence. #ThisIsOurLane"

Robert Doherty, senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy at the ACP, who is one of the firearm paper's coauthors, frequently retweeted physicians' tweets and also tweeted out the link to the position paper. And the Annals of Internal Medicine tweeted, "The @NRA tells doctors to 'stay in their lane' re #GunViolence. We wish we could. Instead, we pledge to talk to our patients about gun violence whenever risk factors are present."

Other professional medical organizations tweeted solidarity with the ACP. The American College of Cardiology (ACC) tweeted a snapshot of an official statement approved by the ACC Board of Trustees in October that encourages a national conversation to "promote thoughtful approaches to promote public health and end the scourge of firearm-related violence in America."

Some physicians tweeted links to policy statements against gun violence and calls to increase research by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Surgeons.

Peter Masiakos, MD (@peter_masiakos), wanted the NRA to know that the ACP was not alone in taking a stance against gun violence. He tweeted, "@NRA Not only in Annals of Medicine. Also seen in @SurgJournal @AnnalsofSurgery @JTraumAcuteSurg @JAMASurgery @NEJM @traumadoctors. @JosephSakran @carriesims20 @dakuhls @TraumaDocSF @selwyn_rogers @Stewartr84 https://www.facs.org/clincon2018/resources/highlights/mon/ps124 ... there's something happening here."

As of press time, the tweetstorm showed no sign of slowing down.

"It's usually a bad move to go to war with doctors over science," tweeted Cedric Dark, MD, MPH (@RealCedricDark).

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