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suzanne Lagarde In this doctor’s lane, patients live in fear of gun violence

November 19, 2018

Recently, the American College of Physicians released a position paper urging extensive reform to gun legislation. In response, the NRA issued the following Tweet: “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.”

Dear NRA,

I am writing to invite you to join me in my lane. In response to a recent position paper on gun violence published by the American College of Physicians, you tweeted that doctors, like me, should stay in our lane. I understand why you don’t want me in your lane.

Unlike you, I don’t believe that guns should be sold without appropriate universal background checks. Unlike you, I don’t believe that semi-automatic rifles should exist outside of military and police forces. Unlike you, I don’t believe that guns should be sold to those with histories of serious mental illness.

But while I don’t share your beliefs, I do believe that we should talk. So while you’ve made it clear that I am not invited into your lane, please come on over to my lane and let’s share some constructive dialog.

In the hopes that I can convince you to join me, I want to provide you with a preview of what you will likely see when you come on over. I currently have the honor of and the responsibility for providing care to nearly 19,000 individuals in an urban community health center. Most of the patients in my lane live at or below the poverty level. For the most part, these are hard-working men and women who share the same dreams that you and I have for ourselves and our loved ones.

Yet they live in fear for their lives and a big part of that fear relates to gun violence. Their streets are no longer safe, just about everyone knows someone who has suffered a personal loss from gun violence and children are fearful of going to school, where mass shootings have occurred far too often.

In my lane, we treat a variety of public health issues such as obesity, diabetes, asthma and addiction. Currently, one of the biggest public health crises facing our patients is gun violence. While our government officials have been able in a bipartisan fashion to come together to fund solutions to the opioid crisis, it pains me to see that this sort of bipartisan collaboration does not exist when it comes to the gun violence crisis.

It is well known that the NRA encourages opposition to any changes in gun legislation. Are you not willing to engage in conversation with an open mind to even small changes to existing laws? Can you not see that you have the power to save lives while not undermining our constitutional rights?

Studies have clearly shown that countries with the highest number of gun deaths are the countries with less stringent laws regulating the use of firearms. States like California, which saw a significant decline in the number of gun related deaths following its implementation of more stringent gun laws, have shown us the benefits of common sense legislation while not trampling the constitutional rights of Americans.

I am confident that the NRA and physicians like me can work together to create a better world for all Americans. While you don’t want me in your lane, I very much would like you in mine. Please come on over and let’s begin to make life better for my patients, indeed for all Americans.

Suzanne Lagarde, M.D. MBA FACP, is Chief Executive Officer of Fair Haven Community Health Care. This commentary was first published in the Connecticut Mirror.

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