Opinion: Gun safety is in physicians’ ‘lane’

When the National Rifle Association posted on Twitter in 2018 that physicians should stay out of the national debate about guns and used the hashtag #StayInYourLane, doctors pushed back. They stressed the need for better gun safety measures and more research about guns with a hashtag of their own: #ThisIsMyLane.

One of them was Latonya Riddle-Jones, an MPH candidate in epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who is a primary care physician in Michigan and an assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine. In a perspective piece published in the July 2019 issue of the Society of General Internal Medicine’s SGIM Forum, she wrote that her experiences in a trauma surgery rotation during medical school—and growing up in a Detroit suburb where drive-by shootings were a risk—made the #ThisIsMyLane campaign hit home.

Riddle-Jones described her advocacy work in support of doctors’ ability to counsel their patients on gun safety. She co-authored two resolutions to the American Medical Association (AMA): the first, to mandate physician training in safe firearm storage and patient counseling; the second, to add questions about firearm safe storage to preventative health visits for people of all ages in the state of Michigan, and ultimately nationwide. The resolutions passed the first step—Riddle-Jones’ county AMA chapter—in February, with the second resolution amended to state that rather than requiring physicians to attend training, training materials would be provided. Riddle-Jones plans to continue pursuing the resolutions at the state and national level, and to continue speaking with her own patients about gun safety.

“It is sickening to witness preschoolers’ terror during ‘Active Shooter Drills’ or to resuscitate toddlers who are victims of drive-by shootings on local freeways,” she wrote. “[Physicians] will continue doing our jobs caring and advocating for our patients.”

Learn more

Doctors affirm commitment to reducing gun violence (Harvard Chan School news)