Hashtags to Laws: A Public-Health Argument on Guns

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What started as an ordinary hashtag-filled battle on Twitter has the makings for actual social change in the nation’s debate about guns, writes Slate commentator Chavi Eve Karkowsky, a physician. Last week, the National Rifle Association used Twitter to fire back at an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine that had argued on public health grounds for greater regulation of guns consistent with the Second Amendment. The NRA’s retort, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” turned into #ThisIsMyLane posts by doctors showing the gore they see when trying to save the lives of gunshot victims. Karkowsky argues this is more than a routine flareup in the culture wars.

“This kind of argument has happened before, over and over,” she writes. “In fact, it happens almost every time there’s a new public health intervention. And that means I think I know who’s going to win, eventually.” Karkowsky makes the analogy to car safety standards, which started as proposals that generated outrage over impositions on personal freedom and nanny-state coddling of people who should be more careful. “Today, we have seat belts, and airbags, and car seats, and can’t imagine not having them. We no longer want to remove them; we’re even grateful for them,” Karkowsky writes, adding that a similar public-health rationale for constitutional gun control is coming. “However much we love our individual freedom, at some point we love something else more: our lives, or our kids’ lives, or the ability to go to school, or a bar, or a concert, or a yoga class without assuming that every loud noise is a massacre in progress.”

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