Shouldn’t ER Doctors Know What To Do About Gun Violence?

Yesterday a horrendous shooting occurred in of all places a city named Chicago.  But as opposed to most shootings in Chicago, this shooting didn’t take place in the street.  In fact, it happened at Mercy Hospital, located on the city’s South Side. The hospital treats its share of shooting victims from the surrounding streets. This time, the victims were hospital staff themselves.

              The story behind the shootings was the same old, same old. Guy gets into an argument with girlfriend, out comes the gun and bang, bang, bangity-bang. The first victim was an ER doctor named Tamara O’Neill, evidently the former fiancée of the shooter, a relationship she broke off at some point prior to yesterday’s attack.  The shooter, identified as 32-year old Juan Lopez, may have possessed a concealed-carry permit which, no doubt, he obtained in order to validate his 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The episode started with an argument between Lopez and O’Neill in the hospital parking lot; the ER doctor was shot dead right on the spot, Lopez then ran into the hospital, killed two more people, then was either shot by the cops or killed himself.

There’s probably a good chance that the late Dr. O’Neill was a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), the professional organization which sets treatment protocols and lobbies for ER medicine at both the federal level and individual states. The organization’s website recently posted a study in which nearly half of 3,536 ER doctors reported that they had been physically assaulted during their work in an ER. Not a single respondent to this national survey claimed that the person who attacked them used a gun.

Perhaps this is the reason why ACEP gives generous political donations to Congressional members representing various districts throughout the United States, but also representing the NRA. What I mean by that is there are 15 current House members who receive the coveted A+ rating from the boys in Fairfax, which means they make sure that what the NRA is what the NRA gets.

The leader of this pack of fools is Richard Hudson (R-NC) who has received $20,000 of the $143,000 that ACEP has contributed to the campaigns of these 15 NRA reps in 2016 and again this year. Why does Hudson rank Numero Uno when it comes to ACEP’s political support? Because he sponsored Public Law 115-83, which eases registration requirements for EMS companies to use controlled substances during an emergency call. One other NRA rep, Ralph Abraham, was given $1,000 and he is listed as a co-sponsor of the bill. Not a single other NRA Congressional toady was a co-sponsor of this legislation, but ACEP found it convenient to give them $122,000 over the last two campaigns.

This bill was passed in the House with a unanimous vote by both parties, no debate. A real tough one, okay? ACEP needed to give Hudson 20 grand for this? And by the way, Hudson also happens to be a major supporter of the national concealed-carry bill, which if it had passed and he was still alive, Dr. O’Neill’s killer could have carried his gun into any other state. Of course after Parkland, Congressman Hudson tweeted his ‘prayers.’

I am sure that within a few days, the ACEP website will contain a loving and glowing tribute to Dr. O’Neill. Maybe the organization will establish a scholarship in her name. In the meantime, let me break the news to some of my friends who happen to be members of APEC and have yet to make a single peep about how their organization funds Members of Congress who, when it comes to gun issues, are the worst of the worst.

Here’s how you end gun violence.  Get rid of the goddamn guns. I don’t mean Grandpa’s rusted, old shotgun that has been sitting in the basement for the last twenty years or the little, 22-caliber rifle that you fired at summer camp. I mean guns like the type used by Tamara O’Neill’s ex-boyfriend to shoot her dead.

Can’t ER doctors figure this one out?

 

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Shouldn’t Docs And Cops Work Together When It Comes To Guns?

Down in Brazos, Texas, two ER doctors made local headlines by donating a pair of Mossberg shotguns to the local County Constable office.  The guns were donated in memory of Constable Brian Bachmann, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, who was killed while attempting to serve an eviction notice onan enraged individual, the latter after shooting Bachmann then shot and killed a civilian, and wounded two other police officers before being killed himself.

What caught my eye about this story was the fact that it highlighted the relationship between law enforcement and medicine when we think about violence perpetrated with guns.  After all, if we use a phrase like ‘gun violence’ to cover every incident in which someone suffers an injury from a gun, then three-quarters of all violence involving guns also happen to be crimes. In 2013, hospitals treated roughly 60,000 people who were victims of shootings and treated 135,000 victims of stabbings and other serious assaults.  But the resources required to deal with gun assaults is probably ten times higher than what’s needed to deal with stabbings or cuts. And every one of these costly gun crimes also creates significant costs and resource use for the cops.

mossberg                The bottom line is that physicians and police are the two groups which must respond to every, single act of violence committed with a gun.  That being the case, how come we have so little interaction between law enforcement and medical communities when it comes to figuring out how to deal with guns?  Back in 2013, three of the leading public health gun researchers published a truly seminal article calling for more engagement between physicians and public health researchers to figure out how to respond to the risks posed by guns.  But shouldn’t this dyad actually be a triad by adding criminology to the mix?  Because if, as the public health authors propose, people buy and carry guns out of fear, don’t we need to know what makes some people then use these guns to commit crimes?

I think the absence of criminology from the public health – medical gun conversation has only served to make it easier for the NRA and other gun promoters to advance the stupid notion that gun ownership is a prima facie way of dealing with crime based on the equally-stupid notion that every illegal gun use can and should be responded to by simply taking the guns away from the ‘bad guys’ and locking them up for long periods of time.  The fact that public health research indicates that guns first appear on the street in the hands of young teens, many of whom might still be guided into non-criminal pursuits given the proper social and therapeutic interventions, is a response to gun violence that the NRA and its cohorts simply ignore.

The NRA reminds its membership every day that being pro-cop and pro-gun are one and the same.  But their relationship to the law enforcement community is ambivalent at best.  For every Western (and some Eastern) sheriff who says he won’t enforce expanded background checks or other gun controls, there’s another police official arguing against laws to weaken CCW or allow college students to walk around armed.  Lots of cops are gun guys, and the average cop will tell you, and he’s right, that law-abiding gun owners are never a problem when it comes to violence caused by guns.  But these same cops also know that most, if not all the guns they face in the street were stolen from a law-abiding gun owner who forgot to lock his guns away.

Take a look at gun industry promotions and you’ll notice that the term ‘gun violence’ is never used.  In fact, the standard mantra among pro-gun criminologists is that guns actually reduce violence because the ‘good guys’ are carrying so many of them around. The real challenge for public health researchers is not disproving this cynical and self-serving nonsense one more time.  It’s making common cause with all the stakeholders who want to advance sensible solutions for the problem of guns.