Why Doctors May Not Be Best Choice Of Voice On Gun Debate

AP Photo/Molly Riley

The National Rifle Association famously told doctors to “stay in your lane.”

A number of doctors replied with images arguing that gun violence was, indeed, their lane. They argued that since they were the ones who dealt with its aftermath, they were a natural voice to speak about gun control.


While that furor died down eventually, the feelings that sparked the outrage continued. Now, doctors are demanding inclusion in the gun debate.

“There are only two people in the world that can tell you the difference between what a handgun or an AR-15 does to someone’s liver. And it’s me and the coroner,” said Newark trauma surgeon Stephanie Bonne to a room full of researchers and gun-control advocates at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick Campus.

Bonne was making the case Tuesday that medical professionals should be at the table for discussions of gun violence. Historically, she said, the issue has been looked at through a criminal justice lens.

Well, there are a lot of people who aren’t doctors who can tell you the difference between what a handgun and an AR-15 does to someone’s liver. More to the point, we can also point out that not all handguns are created equal. There’s a big difference between a .22 long rifle round and an S&W 500 Magnum, for example.

However, should doctors be included in the discussion?

Freedom of speech means that anyone can and should voice their opinions if they so desire. I’m not about to suggest otherwise.


But when it comes to the gun debate, it’s important to recognize that doctors don’t see it in its entirety in their line of work. What they see is the aftermath of the violent act.

Imagine, if you will, a doctor spending hours operating on a 15-year-old kid who had been shot in a drive-by, only to lose them in the OR. No doubt that would have an impact on anyone who isn’t a sociopath.

But what the doctor doesn’t necessarily see is the 33-year-old woman who uses a firearm to scare off an attempted rape. The doctor doesn’t see the 77-year-old man who stops a mugging with his 1911. They don’t see the 35-year-old man who ended a violent confrontation between a group of teens and their target by drawing his weapon and sending the attackers running.

And this assumes that the doctors aren’t upset over the violent jackwagons who end up in the ER after being shot in self-defense. I’m not so sure that’s the case with some of them.

Regardless, doctors see precisely one part of the equation in their line of work. While many do seek out additional information to be well-versed in the topic, many of the anti-gun MDs we’re seeing are doing no such thing. They’re basing their opinions on their emotions–emotions born of experience, to be fair–but emotions just the same. They’re driven by their feelings and the horrors they’ve seen.


But they’re not necessarily aware of the horrors they didn’t see because the potential victims had guns.

Doctors are free to share their opinions and experiences all they want. We live in a free country, after all. However, don’t expect it to sway people who understand that a doctor’s perspective might be skewed precisely because of those experiences.

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