The National Rifle Association has never been one to shy away from controversy. After 2018 saw a series of mass shootings take place at a high school in Florida, a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a bar in Southern California, the NRA strongly defended their opinion that gun control was not the solution, and that it may even be the problem.

Typically, the NRA faces off with liberal politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who once said in a debate he’s proud to consider the NRA an enemy. Often, activist groups like Moms Demand Action and March for Our Lives will also enter the dialogue, but last week a controversial tweet from the NRA drew ire from another group: healthcare professionals.

Last Wednesday, the NRA sent out a tweet telling “self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” in response to an Oct. 30th policy-position paperreleased by the American College of Physicians that supports stricter regulation of firearms and encourages healthcare providers to inform patients of the risks of keeping a firearm in their home.

Within minutes, healthcare professionals across the nation took to social media to scold the NRA for its comments and share their own stories of caring for victims of gun violence.

“Can’t post a patient photo ... so this is a selfie,” one healthcare provider tweeted, including a picture of his blood-soaked hospital scrubs.

Others shared even more graphic content, such as formerly white hospital beds turned red from the blood of victims of gun violence, as well as trash cans brimming with bloody bandages and rags.

Stephanie Bonne, a surgeon at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, took to Twitter to speak to the emotional toll caring for victims of gun violence takes on medical professionals.

“The front-line responders to gun violence are healthcare workers. They see it first, they see it the most [except for the police],” said Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist, bioethics professor and founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at the New York University School of Medicine. “The NRA doesn’t see any of it. They don’t see the consequences of their failed policies.”

This latest round of verbal sparring is just the latest in a long history of contention between the medical community and the NRA, who differ on how gun violence in the United States should be viewed. Medical professionals have traditionally called for gun violence to be examined as a public health crisis like the AIDS epidemic, while the NRA sees gun violence as the direct result of over-regulation of the firearms industry.

In 1993, the dispute between medical professionals and the gun lobby boiled to a heat after the Centers for Disease Control published a major study that found gun ownership to be a risk factor for domestic homicides, directly refuting the NRA’s claim that increased gun ownership will decrease gun deaths. Spurned by the study, the NRA catapulted to action and lobbied conservative lawmakers to prevent the CDC from publishing more research. The result was the Dickey Amendment, a provision in a 1996 omnibus spending bill that mandated no federal funds were to be provided for the CDC to conduct research that could be used to promote gun control.

Caplan, and others in the medical community, believe the Dickey Amendment and with the NRA’s influence on American politics deserve a share of the blame for the recent string of mass shootings that has plagued the United States over the last few years.

“The NRA’s policy is, ‘Arm everybody, have no regulations, let anybody buy a gun, make sure that there’s plenty of ammo.’ So far, that policy is an utter failure. It doesn’t work,” Caplan said. “We need other ideas ... and the public-health-medical community just isn’t going to take it when they’re told to ‘Shut up, stand down, and stay silent in this debate.’ Nor should they. Gun violence is a public health problem. In fact, it ought to be studied that way.”

Though Caplan is not alone in his beliefs, the debate over allowing the CDC to research gun violence has been swirling around Capitol Hill for over a decade, with little changed since 1996. In 2012, after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children dead, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order to reverse the ban. However, the agency was stymied by a lack of congressional funding and a fear of wading back into the public debate around firearms, and has not conducted any far-reaching firearm-related studies since Obama’s executive order.

This could all potentially change, however, with a House of Representatives that is substantially more progressive on gun control, and where several new members have called for an official repeal of the Dickey Amendment.

“We have a moral obligation to address the gun violence epidemic that is threatening communities across our country,” a statement on newly elected Illinois Congresswoman Lauren Underwood's website reads. “We must be allowed to study this epidemic as the critical public health issue that it is — and it’s time to repeal the Dickey Amendment.”

Other congressional newcomers who have joined Underwood in her call to repeal the amendment include Colin Allred (D-TX), Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-TX), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Harley Rouda (D-CA).