Brady United, a national gun violence prevention group, announced today the launch of its first national advisory council, whose goal is to address gun violence through a public health lens by placing leading healthcare experts at the helm. 

“This Is Our Lane,” a council chaired by gun violence survivor and trauma surgeon Dr. Joseph Sakran, will be composed of healthcare professionals from various intersecting professions across the country. Sakran, who became the Brady Center’s first chief medical officer and board chair last year, is also the executive vice-chair of surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, making him the only medical professional in the country leading a gun violence prevention board.

“This is the first type of advisory council that is created and focused around an entire slew of healthcare professionals within one of the major gun violence prevention organizations in the country,” said Sakran. The creation of the council, he added, “demonstrates the importance that Brady has been putting forth in the conversation of this being a health issue and not a criminal justice issue.” 

Known for its policy work and the passage of the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, Brady’s firearm prevention work spans five decades of bipartisan efforts. The council is comprised of members representing specialties including pediatric surgery, nursing, and medical studies; their collective goal is to advance an evidence-based public health approach to firearm violence, which, despite a history of being politicized, has been increasingly gaining momentum. 

The council unites violence prevention and research efforts that are typically disparate and therefore less effective. Part of the council’s mission is for its work to bridge the gap between policy, public health, academic research, and cultural narratives that are instrumental to gun violence prevention but are not always in sync, stifling potential solutions. 

“Evidence-based research is the foundation of robust legislation,” Sakran said. “Firearms are used in so many television shows, but imagine if medical professionals were instrumental in making sure that safe storage practices are shown on television, just as we see seatbelts.”

The council’s launch focuses on five key public health objectives to help shift the narrative around gun violence. Among them: a recommendation to the Surgeon General’s Office to publish a report on gun violence prevention and declare gun violence as a public health crisis. There has never been a surgeon general’s report on gun violence, despite the urging of the nation’s top doctors and firearms being a leading cause of death of Americans for decades. Historically, declarations and reports by the Surgeon General’s Office have been essential to how local and federal agencies address pressing health issues that demand national attention. 

In 2023, the surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy declared loneliness an existential threat; isolation has been linked to firearm suicide, leading to national coverage of how it is adversely affecting the health of Americans.

In the absence of a report, Murthy has urged for more attention and research into gun violence, which he has repeatedly called “an epidemic.” Some of the council’s other objectives of the advisory council include an advocacy training program for healthcare professionals, amplifying the expertise of healthcare specialists and survivors in the press and media, and a consensus study by the National Academy of Medicine, which has produced authoritative, independent reports by panels of diverse experts on a range of complex issues, like climate change and educational standards. 

“These are very rigorous reports done methodically and are made publicly available,” said Sakran, emphasizing the independence of these assessments, “but most importantly, they have a significant influence on policy, research agendas, and practice.”

The council members will participate in a range of activities, including media training, coordinating with hospitals and medical care systems on firearm prevention, and providing expertise to improve education materials on gun violence prevention. They also call for a substantial increase in national funding in the next five years.

“When you think about the disproportionate funding of this disease compared to other disease processes, it is a clear disparity,” said Sakran, stressing that funding should be proportional to its effect on communities. “A significant increase in funding for research in firearm injuries and mortality is needed to expand it and it is difficult to know exactly what that right number is.”

The council’s name comes from the 2018 tweet by the National Rifle Association mocking doctors to “stay in their lane,” in response to a paper by the American College of Physicians outlining a public health approach to violence reduction. Sakran recalled reading the tweet on his couch after finishing a long shift at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was incensed; his experiences of telling parents in the hospital waiting room that their child had died from their gunshot injury — the kind he had survived and which ultimately led him to his profession — flashed before his eyes. 

That weekend, Sakran created the social media handle @Thisisourlane, which has in the six years since amassed more than 37,000 followers and has fostered a community of healthcare providers from around the country tackling the issue of gun violence. It led directly to Sakran’s appointment at Brady as the first chief medical officer in the gun violence prevention movement, said Brady’s president, Kris Brown, so it was natural for the organization to take up the same mantle in launching the new initiative, to “change the conversation on gun violence in America as one that is grounded in public health, as opposed to partisanship.” 

“I have been a school nurse for 24 years, and I often say that we are on the frontlines of gun violence and schools because we are often the first responders, but why are we not on the frontline when it comes to the prevention piece,” said Robin Cogan, a community school nurse in New Jersey and a member of the council. Cogan initially connected with Sakran through Twitter. 

“We are all collectively responsible for the future of our children.”