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In the U.S., nearly 40,000 people died from guns in 2017. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gun violence has become a normalized occurrence and the American Medical Association has called this issue “a public health crisis.” KUNR’s continuing coverage explores how Northern Nevada, including medical professionals, law enforcement and everyday citizens, are mitigating this ongoing threat.

Renown CEO Speaks Out About Gun Violence

Quote from Dr. Tony Slonim of Renown Health reading “I am…a pediatric intensive care doctor and have, unfortunately, attended to children as young as four years of age who have been shot because of inadvertent gun use. Those images stick in your brain..."
Michelle Matus

Doctors nationwide have been weighing in on the gun control debate with #ThisIsOurLane on social media. They're responding to a recent tweet from the National Rifle Association, which admonished the American College of Physicians for declaring gun violence as a public health issue in a new position paper and said doctors should 'stay in their lane.'

KUNR's Anh Gray talked to the president and CEO of Renown Health, Dr. Tony Slonim, about why he and other medical professionals are speaking out. 

In the above tweet, the NRA rails against the ACP's assessments and policy recommendations on the prevention of firearm-related injuries and deaths. In November, Renown's Slonim waded into the politcally-charged gun control conversation with the below tweet, contending that physicians have an obligation to be leaders on this issue.

For Slonim, gun violence is a looming public health issue in the U.S. and the medical community should be integral to the nationwide conversation on how to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

“This is a public health crisis, and you can only sit on the sidelines for so long before you influence and persuade people that you have a real problem on your hands,” Slonim explains.

Slonim says, gun violence has touched people all over the country and doctors, who are on the frontlines treating gun injuries, have critical perspectives to share.

"This is affecting communities across the nation, regardless of their socioeconomic status, Slonim says, “and it’s affecting people who are, as we’ve seen in major examples, of all ages, not the traditional places where we expect to see gun violence, in the middle of the night in some shady corner of the city.”

Since #ThisIsOurLane appeared on social media, trauma surgeons and doctors treating people with gun injuries have been sharing their personal accounts of having to care for patients in dire circumstances, sometimes even including graphic descriptions or photos to get their message across. Slonim says his own personal experience as a physician treating gun injuries galvanized him to speak out.

“I am by background, myself, a pediatric intensive care doctor and have, unfortunately, attended to children as young as four years of age who have been shot because of inadvertent gun use,” Slonim explains. “Those images stick in your brain—for the rest of your life—and I think that’s one of the reasons why it was time for me to say, ‘I have had enough,’ and wanted to get engaged in the conversation.”

Medical professionals across the country are continuing to use #ThisIsOurLane on social media to draw attention to the actual physical and emotional toll of firearm-related injuries and deaths.

KUNR reached out to the NRA for comments about this story but did not receive a response. 

Anh Gray is a former contributing editor at KUNR Public Radio.
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