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Letter to the Editor

Online Tantrums Not the Right Response to the NRA

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000552805.33563.a6
Letter to the Editor
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Editor:

The NRA responded in a predictable but bumbling fashion to new American College of Physicians recommendations on reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries. The policy was ripe for dissension from Second Amendment supporters, and included some recommendations based on dubious evidence.

The response from the online medical community was swift and fierce, but quickly degenerated into name-calling, insults, and ad hominem attacks. Others included emotional and graphic clinical stories of victims of gun violence. The hashtag #ThisIsOurLane exploded. Truly, hell hath no fury like a doctor's ego threatened.

Unfortunately, fervent emotion does not always confer expertise or correlate with wise public policy. To move forward, we must carve out an intelligent communal space that will help us address the problems of firearm-related deaths. We can start by tackling pressing issues such as research into the best practices of mass shooting response training or firearm restrictions to domestic abusers.

The question is can physicians go it alone? We will have no other choice if we cling to emotional responses, online temper tantrums, and our worst impulses. Twitter is not built to engender harmony with its 280-character limit. It is necessary to set aside these impulses knowing they will lead nowhere beneficial. Such behavior is more likely to be injurious to your own soul than persuasive to anonymous Twitter users.

Luckily, we physicians already possess amazing skills that can help us broaden our base of support. Every day patients present to us with distasteful biases, aggressive behaviors, and even racist or sexist attitudes. But we do not lash out at them. We have nuanced techniques to calm agitated patients and assuage those with misplaced ideals so that they partner with us on their health care.

We should employ these skills in the public forum as well by avoiding unnecessary conflict, derisive language, and accusatory statements. We should encourage all to partner with groups occupying the space of common agreement, such as the AFFIRM research group (https://affirmresearch.org/).

There is a path forward on these issues. Physicians can be the leaders, but it cannot be through deliberate exaggeration and snarky commentary. The way forward must be claimed by thoughtfulness, understanding, and compromise. This is where our lane exists if we are willing to stay in it.

Kevin L Taylor, MD

Jupiter, FL

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