Firearm safety is a topic not only being discussed within ACEP but also of interest to other professional societies. At the most recent American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS COT), a town hall was devoted to this topic, providing a lively open exchange among their members on the role they might play in promoting firearm safety and injury prevention.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 35 – No 07 – July 2016
Advocating for a public health/trauma system approach to firearm injury prevention seems core to ACS COT’s mission. However, there were two contrasting, strongly held opinions among their members regarding gun ownership: Guns equal freedom and safety, or guns cause limitation of freedom and create violence. These two opinions are mirrored in society and also within ACEP. Many of us have heard this debate in our own Council several times. The ACS COT discussions took a different slant and approach. ACS COT leadership said that organizations want their decisions to be data-driven (and rightly so), but this is often derailed by emotions surrounding a particularly polarizing topic.
Rules of Civility
The goal of the town hall was to provide a forum for a civil, collegial, and professional dialogue toward developing consensus regarding interventions aimed at reducing firearm injuries and deaths. Setting the tone for the upcoming debate, Ronald Stewart, MD, chair of ACS COT, introduced the “conscious” leadership concept, where what a person perceives as facts are sometimes instead just “stories” without a true basis in demonstrable data.1
We as a society, and particularly as health care professionals, place a high premium on facts. However, those “facts” can actually be based on unintentionally made-up stories and be the cause of upset, drama, and distress around a difficult, polarizing topic. For example, a post on social media says that they’ve never seen so many people with guns in the city before. After several tellings to others, that post may unintentionally become the basis of a “study I read somewhere” about the rise of the number of guns in city centers.
Respecting others’ opinions simply requires us to recognize that they are entitled to look at the world differently and that when they share their views they can expect a fair hearing.
Once we understand that we all have a tendency to unintentionally make up stories and then come to believe these stories as actual facts, we can then choose to hold our story lightly, meaning that we acknowledge that the story is our story. It isn’t fact; it’s simply a reflection of the way we see the world.1 This opens an avenue to objectively listen to others, building a bridge between different beliefs and fostering dialogue that’s respectful.