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The important story behind why doctors are sharing blood-stained photos of themselves.

Warning: This articles contains images that are graphic in nature.

It’s the mass shootings that tend to make the headlines. Seventeen students and staff killed at a Parkland high school. Ten at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Five in the newsroom of the Minneapolis Capital Gazette.

But these are among more than 49,500 incidents of gun violence in the United States so far this year. Incidents that have claimed the lives of more than 12,600 people, and killed or injured 577 children.

Yet last week the country’s powerful firearm lobby group, the National Rifle Association, reserved their scrutiny for doctors. Men and women who perform compressions on the tiny chests of those children, who rush them into emergency surgery, who sit opposite loved ones and break the news that their baby couldn’t be saved.

“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” the National Rifle Association tweeted on Thursday. “Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.”

The NRA was referring to a new position paper released by the American College of Physicians’ that outlined its public health approach to reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries. The tweet was posted just hours before a gunman opened fire in a country and western bar in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 12.

In response, doctors have inundated the NRA with messages via social media, attempting to show what it looks like in their “lane”.

“Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. It’s my f***ing highway,” forensic pathologist Judy Melinek wrote in tweet that has since gone viral.

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Several of them shared images of their blood-stained scrubs and shoes, of bloodied rags and footprints on the theatre floor; the messy reality of treating patients with gun-shot wounds.

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In the past, the NRA has successfully lobbied to limited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research into gun violence.

While a bill passed in March gave the CDC authority to do research on the “causes” of gun violence, a 1996 NRA-lobbied law still blocks it from using federal money for anything that advocates for or promotes gun control. Funding for any kind of gun-violence related research is also heavily restricted.

Makes it tricky for the medical community to, as the NRA put it, consult anyone but themselves.

“We need to do something, and telling doctors to stay in their own lane is not the way to do it,” Dr Judy Melink told The Guardian. “We’re the ones who have to deal with the consequences. We’re the ones who have to testify in court about the wounds. We’re the ones who have to talk to the family members. It breaks my heart, and it’s just another day in America.”

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