A Doctor And Former NRA Member Discusses The Kentucky School Shooting Sterling Haring, former member of the NRA, helped treat school shooting victims at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Kentucky. He talks with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the Parkland shooting.
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A Doctor And Former NRA Member Discusses The Kentucky School Shooting

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A Doctor And Former NRA Member Discusses The Kentucky School Shooting

A Doctor And Former NRA Member Discusses The Kentucky School Shooting

A Doctor And Former NRA Member Discusses The Kentucky School Shooting

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Sterling Haring, former member of the NRA, helped treat school shooting victims at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Kentucky. He talks with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the Parkland shooting.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

After the shooting in Parkland, a debate about gun policy has been front and center. And that conversation has led to soul searching for many. We reached out to someone who's been putting some thought into the issue. Sterling Haring was once a dues-paying member of the NRA. He's a medical resident at Vanderbilt Medical Center. And last month, he wasn't prepared for what rolled into his trauma center.

STERLING HARING: I just think it's jarring to a human - to anyone, I would think - to see bullet holes in a child. It's shocking. It's disturbing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They were children injured in the shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky. And he wondered...

HARING: Is anything going to happen? Is anyone going to do anything to prevent this next one? And I couldn't help but think, this is just going to happen again.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He was right. Since then, there have been nine incidents involving guns on school grounds, including the one in Parkland. Dr. Haring joined us from Nashville. And I asked him about his family's relationship to guns.

HARING: You know, I grew up - I was born in Arkansas. And I was just raised in a very gun-friendly family, very gun-friendly culture. I got my first rifle when I was 8 years old. I got my first shotgun when I was 12. And yeah - when I was 14, I got my Eagle Scout Award. And my uncle let me pick what gun I wanted from his arsenal, so to speak. And I asked for an assault rifle, and I got it.

It was seen as - I don't know - kind of your patriotic duty. I think at least that's how I saw it. Just the culture that I think I was raised in was one of, if you're religious, you're a patriot. And if you are a patriot then, you know, guns are just a part of that patriotism. And to some extent, I understand that. You know, I've had a family member in, I think, every armed conflict that the country has been in that I'm aware of. I know my father and my brother have both served in the Army and my uncles and grandfathers and everything. And it was just kind of - it was a rite of passage.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How did your views change?

HARING: You know, in medical school, we moved a little bit - moved around. And you're forced to interact with people that you otherwise might not have. And then I think it swayed me a little bit more toward the middle on a lot of issues, but specifically with relation to guns. My views have changed in that I've seen a lot of the data. I've done a lot of work with the injury center at Johns Hopkins. And that certainly opened my eyes quite a bit. But I don't think anything would have prepared me to see bullet holes in a child.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You mentioned that you are still a gun owner. What would you like to see? Where do you stand?

HARING: I would like to see some of the low-hanging fruit passed first. I think there are some easy, easy options that we can do right up front. I think we can ban bump stocks. I think we can pass an assault rifle ban. I think we can introduce and strengthen universal background checks but make them truly universal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you spoken to your relatives? They're lifetime members of the NRA, as you mention. Do you talk to them about gun regulations?

HARING: I do. In fact, just recently, I was speaking with a relative. And I was really quite surprised at the extent to which we agreed. I mean, he asked me, what changes would you like to see? And I told him. You know, here's how I feel about it. I think this, this, this and this should be changed. And he actually agreed with all of those things and took some of them a step further.

I don't know. To me, it opened my eyes a little bit even more to the common ground that I think many Americans share. And I really do think that's true. I mean, some of the polls have told us, for example, about universal background checks - is a great example. Over 90 percent of Republicans and over 90 percent of Democrats support that. There's one organization that tends to not. And they tend to well-fund legislators. And that's unfortunate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're speaking of the NRA, of course.

HARING: I am. I am speaking of the NRA. So I think the vast majority of gun-owning Americans believe that the NRA is an organization by and for gun owners. And I'm firmly of the opinion that the NRA is an organization by and for gun manufacturers and gun sellers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you teach your children about guns?

HARING: I haven't yet. I do not currently have them in my home. I'm a strong believer in proper storage - safe storage. I don't think that my family will be any safer by me leaving a loaded handgun in my nightstand. I believe my family can be safer - it's much safer either having no gun in the home or having a gun in a locked safe. So yes. I still own the guns that I was given when I was young. They are in a locked safe. And I currently don't own one. So I gave them to my father and asked him to store them for me in his locked safe.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sterling Haring is a medical resident at Vanderbilt Medical Center and an injury policy researcher at Johns Hopkins. Thank you so much.

HARING: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE WEDNESDAY'S "SWEET BERRY WINE")

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