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Des Moines doctor calls for discussion, not "Twitter war" over gun violence

Dr. Richard Sidwell, a trauma surgeon with the Iowa Clinic, stands by the American College of Physicians' position that doctors should be part of fighting gun-related injury and death.


KGAN CBS 2 | Shannon Moudy

Photo of Dr. Richard Sidwell Doctors across the country are taking to Twitter to let the National Rifle Association know how gun violence affects them.

They're using #thisismylane, sometimes posting pictures of bloody surgery rooms or other photos from gun-related cases coming in.

It started in late October after the American College of Physicians, or ACP, published a position paper calling gun violence a public health crisis in need of a public health approach. The NRA published their own editorial days later, taking to Twitter to tell “anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”

Weeks of debate have passed, mostly on social media. During that time, a man killed his ex-fiance, then turned a gun on others at a hospital in Chicago, killing a police officer and a pharmacy resident.

Now, one Des Moines surgeon says this isn't the way to end gun violence.

Dr. Richard Sidwell, a trauma surgeon with the Iowa Clinic, stands by the ACP’s position that doctors should be part of fighting gun-related injury and death.

"Doctors are interested in the health of patients,” Dr. Sidwell says. “Injury prevention is something the doctors should be involved with."

He was a part of the reaction on Twitter, tweeting, “I’m an @NRA member. I’m a #gunowner. I’m a caring trauma surgeon who is trying to be part of the solution, working with @ACSTrauma. These positions are NOT mutually exclusive. #ISayNoToStayInMyLane.”

However, Dr. Sidwell says hashtags are not a fix for gun-related injury and death, and the on-going social media debate is detracting from the issue at hand.

“Everyone is talking about the "stay in your lane" and that's taking away from some discussion about how to actually make a workable solution,” he says.

He's got a unique perspective, perhaps why he’s been referenced in the Washington Post, Daily Mail, and other publications following the online outcry.

"I am an NRA member. I'm a trauma surgeon, I do belong to the NRA, I am a gun owner. I also want the problem solved,” he explains.

Dr. Sidwell is part of a group of 22 trauma surgeons -- 18 of them gun owners -- who began researching a solution eight months ago. The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma’s Firearms Strategy Team published a list of recommendations -- much like the ACP did. Some of their positions differ, but Dr. Sidwell says the important thing was each one was agreed on by all 22 members.

"Concensus recommendations,” he says. “One-hundred percent agreement."

Dr. Sidwell says that’s what needs to happen in the discussion on gun violence. He believes there’s more than the two dominating narratives, with much more common ground than the polarizing debate would let on. He’s calling for all sides to work together -- off the Twittersphere.

"That drama polarizes one side against another,” he says. “If we can switch and understand that this is everybody's lane, by working together to find our common ground."

CBS2/Fox28 News did reach out to the NRA and other gun rights groups for their perspective. We did not hear back.

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