1. Gould, Kathleen Ahern PhD, RN

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This editorial belongs here. Critical care nurses see the sequela of gun violence every day. It is something medical professionals should talk about-shout about. We know that the purpose of a gun is to kill. If one is lucky, they will survive and become our patients.


Doctors for America's (DOA's) gun violence prevention group uses the hashtag #thisisourlane. This is our lane; every aspect of our life is affected by gun violence. We are rescuers. We serve as healers after violent events and counselors as we guide patients to self-care and mental health challenges. We are public health leaders, health educators, and designers of safe care systems. During the sequela of gun violence deaths, we are nurses, parents, sisters, brothers, parents, grandparents, and community members-terrified and motivated to do something. Now, as the violence persists, we must do more.


I wear orange on Tuesdays. I post anti-gun violence lawn signs, belong to gun violence groups, and vote for leaders who share my values. I ask patients if there are guns in the home and teach about safe storage. I ask parents if they have a gun in their home before letting my children and now my grandchildren visit. I teach "stop the bleed" classes and carry combat tourniquets in my glove compartment. And now, I write another editorial. I hope to inspire more nurses and professional to work toward change. Still, it is not enough. Today I wrote to my local political leaders, using a template provided by the DOA organization. I am empowered by a recent DOA email entitled "A Call to Action" (email communication June 8, 2022). It encouraged all members to contact their local leaders with these words: "Harness your outrage and contact your US Representative to vote yes for a packet addressing gun violence prevention by way of common-sense firearm regulations. Many bills would be considered under this broader Act, called the Protecting Our Kids Act (HR 7910), which would change federal law by establishing a new tax credit for the sale of safe storage devices; making it a criminal penalty for breaking requirements for the storage of firearms on residential premises; increasing the age limit on the purchase of certain firearms and high-capacity ammunition; requiring current laws for mandatory serial numbers to be applied to currently untraceable firearms ('ghost guns'); and installing measures to help prevent illegal gun trafficking and sales."


A floor vote is expected on HR 7910 in June 2022. The email provided a template letter that can be personalized to send to your representative in just minutes. I was able to send mine directly through the link! The DOA reminds us that the politicians need to hear our collective voices as physicians and other health care professionals.


Once again, we are outraged and heartbroken. Yet, we must be vocal and vigilant. As I reviewed our work in DCCN, I realized that we have published many editorials and articles on this topic. In 2002, Dr Beth Keely wrote that any employee can be a victim, as any patient or visitor within the hospital setting can become violent when under extreme mental and physical stress.1 One author even suggested that professional staff learn how to disarm a weapon, as the purpose of the article was to explain how a firearm works and how to safely handle and store the weapon (often found on a patient) until it could be safely secured.2


With a heavy heart, in 2014, I wrote a tribute to Newtown and, a few months later, a second piece, describing a gun violence incident close to home for me. That year, in Boston, our medical community was devastated by the murder of a local doctor, gunned down in his office by an angry and grief-stricken son of a deceased patient.3,4


Now, in 2022, the violence continues. Most recently, a young man with an automatic weapon mowed down 19 kids and 2 teachers inside an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. Days later, a shooter killed 4 hospital employees in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The dead included a patient, a receptionist, and 2 doctors, one of whom had recently performed back surgery on the gunman. I grieve for these victims and the staff at this hospital. Unfortunately, a patient unable to find relief from his back surgery brought his pain to the hospital and turned it into rage.


I continue to write editorials because I realize that heath care professionals know all too well how even a single bullet can ravage the body, causing death, permanent disability, and often a lifetime of medical complications. For me, caring for these patients is personal, making the issue of gun control also personal. We also know that it does not have to be this way because we have eradicated other public health issues. We can and must search for solutions to gun violence. A public health approach to this issue is possible.4


Political inaction sanctioned more death at a music festival in Las Vegas and at Parkland High School in Florida in 2018. The editorials in 2018 cited facts that revealed many of our elected leaders side with legislation that favors a robust gun economy over personal safety.5,6 I hoped these incidents would change political hearts and minds. It did not. In 2019, after 2 back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, left 31 people dead, I wrote again, citing the fact that Stop the Bleed kits are now added to public spaces, next to automatic cardiac defibrillators and Narcan kits, as civilians prepare to serve as first responders on a scale that is unprecedented. A new reality exists; violence may result in mass casualty anywhere, anytime.7


Today, the shootings continue, and the statistics are horrific. Since 2019, more than 4500 children have been shot to death in the United States, according to the recent report in the Gun Violence Archive ( That is about the same number of US military members killed during the 17 years of the Iraq War. Guns account for 79% of all murders in the United States. It is, by far, Americans' favorite weapon of death.8


Doctors for America members are on the frontlines bearing witness to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. Medical professionals treat the immediate injuries caused by bullets and provide care for long-term effects on victims, families, and communities.


Dr Kelly Henry, DOA Vice Chair of Community Health and Prevention and Moms Demand Action Volunteer, says "Unfortunately, these gut-wrenching feelings I am experiencing today ring true for a lot of families, not just after tragic mass shootings, but every day. Every day, gun violence is taking the lives of our children. It is the number one cause of death for children and young adults in the United States. For the first time, it surpassed car accidents in 2020 to become the number one cause of death for our children. Our communities are failing them. This is a public health crisis."9


We all must do more to influence our political leaders. I encourage you to Join DOA or other gun violence prevention groups and make your voice as a medical professional heard.


I will close with the words of Dr Chana Sacks and her writing team, "Although the roots of the epidemic of gun violence in the United States are deep and tangled, those of us who dedicate our lives to health and well-being cannot sit by and allow that epidemic to grow. We can change the narrative of gun violence in America. When it comes to gun violence, physicians should be at the forefront of prevention."10 Nurses and all health professions can join Dr Sacks and work toward changing the narrative!




1. Keely BR. Recognition and prevention of hospital violence. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2002;21(6):236-241. [Context Link]


2. May W. He's got a gun!Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2006;25(2):82-85. [Context Link]


3. Gould KA. In tribute to Newtown: join the discussion to prevent gun violence. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2014;33(2):103-104. doi:. [Context Link]


4. Gould KA. Ending gun violence. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2016;35(2):55-58. doi:. [Context Link]


5. Gould KA. Gun violence-make it stop. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2018;37(1):1-2. doi:. [Context Link]


6. Gould KA. Parkland students provide a model for personal and public narratives to say #neveragain. Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2018;37(4):199-200. doi:. [Context Link]


7. Gould KA. Responding to mass casualties: are we ready?Dimens Crit Care Nurs. 2019;38(6):283. doi:. [Context Link]


8. Hanafin T. Our blood-soaked gun culture. Boston Globe. June 2, 2022. Accessed June 3, 2022. [Context Link]


9. Henry K. Dr. Kelly Henry on gun violence prevention. Accessed June 4, 2022. [Context Link]


10. Sacks CA, Ingelfinger JR, Taichman DB, et al. Nineteen days in America. N Engl J Med. 2022. doi:. [Context Link]