Early in my medical training, I learned that it is not the bullet that kills you, but the damage from the bullet. A handgun bullet enters the body in a straight line. Like a knife, it damages the organs and tissues directly in its path, and then it either exits the body or is stopped by bone, tissue or skin.
This is in contrast to bullets from an assault rifle. They are three times the speed of handgun bullets. Once they enter the body, they fragment and explode, pulverizing bones, tearing blood vessels and liquefying organs.
This is what was happening to my patient, whose heart quickly stopped beating. We performed an emergency thoracotomy — splitting open his chest in an attempt to clamp off bleeding and restart his heart. Blood poured out of his chest cavity. The bullet had disintegrated his spleen and torn his aorta. Four ribs had essentially turned to dust. The damage was far too extensive. He died in our E.R. He was 15.
On the Media has a number of handbooks for how to deal with certain situations. Since we’re now all potentially breaking news and media figures, the active shooter edition is good advice to keep in mind.
There’s a printable PDF edition if you want to keep it near your computer or television. It’s a good reminder for all of us.
I came across this well-written, reasoned piece explaining why someone would own an AR-15. The part that really hit me was this:
The AR-15 is less a model of rifle than it is an open-source, modular weapons platform that can be customized for a whole range of applications, from small pest control to taking out 500-pound feral hogs to urban combat. Everything about an individual AR-15 can be changed with aftermarket parts — the caliber of ammunition, recoil, range, weight, length, hold and grip, and on and on.
It’s less a gun and more a framework for a gun. That made a lot of sense to me. It’s a firearm that can be configured and used in a number of different ways.
So cops and civilians “need” an AR-15 because that one gun can be adapted to an infinite variety of sporting, hunting, and use-of-force scenarios by an amateur with a few simple tools. An AR-15 owner doesn’t have to buy and maintain a separate gun for each application, nor does she need a professional gunsmith to make modifications and customizations. In this respect, the AR-15 is basically a giant lego kit for grownups.
I still don’t agree with it. But I can see the reasoning behind owning them. Why I need an AR-15 is worth a read. Even if you don’t agree with the position. It explains why the weapon is so popular.
Barely a day goes by without a mass shooting.
It’s terrifying. It’s exhausting. It’s a problem native to the United States. It’s a mentally unhealthy population that knows no way to express their feelings other than violence.
It’s a country where you can buy an AR-15 in 7 minutes. With that kind of speed, any impulse to murder can be acted on and carried out without any time to cool off and have your cooler head appeal to your better self.
Guns are accessible. That’s a fact that won’t quickly change. Most guns used in mass shootings are purchased legally. It’s so easy to buy them legally, why go through the extra trouble of illegal sales?
But why are so many people purchasing them and acting on their emotions in mass violence? What makes someone wake up and decide to shoot up a school, night club, movie theater or church?
I wish more of these shooters were captured alive so we could ask them.
“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one?”
Believe what you want about guns and rights. Believe what you like about President Obama, the Second Amendment and the NRA. I am not going to try to change your minds. I won’t.
What I want is not to lose any of you to gun violence. I don’t want to see a Facebook update about how you were gunned down last night.
I don’t want to get a call that you were murdered while seeing a movie, going to church or being black.
I don’t want your family to mourn your death. I don’t want you to be a loss your family commemorates. I don’t want you to be reduced to a memory and a grave stone or a sprinkled pile of ash.
I want you to be alive. I want you to be well. I want you to live and breathe and make the most of your life. I want you to enjoy the life you were meant to lead. I don’t want you to die.
I don’t want to die. I like going to the movies. I used to regularly attend church. I drive my car and use public transit. I don’t want to get gunned down as I go about my day.
And I want the same for you. I don’t want you to get killed. I want you to live a long and full life. And I want to enjoy the same.
I own a gun. I don’t think about it. It’s not a part of my life. I have the right. But I don’t need to carry it around and keep it on my person at any given time. I understand those who feel the need for a firearm for their own safety.
But I am not that person. I don’t feel unsafe. If I walk outside and I meet a gunman and it’s my day to die, then so be it. I don’t believe if I were armed I would stand a better chance in living through the encounter.
I write this as a I watch President Obama’s talk on guns tonight. I know he’s a controversial figure and anything he says will draw fire from all sides.
He is not coming to take our guns away. He is not trying to infringe on our rights as Americans or gun owners. He is asking why we allow gun violence to be a daily problem in our country.
Watch President Obama Share the Steps He’s Taking to Reduce Gun Violence.
“Maybe we can’t save everybody but we can save some.”
It seems like a reasonable idea.
The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.
Part of the President’s plan has nothing to do with guns themselves. But to invest in treatment for people with mental health issues. These issues can lead to homicide, but also suicide.
I fully support helping people with mental health issues get the care they need. This will take the guns, pills, cars and knives out of their hands and allow them to live a happy and healthy life.
Let’s keep people safe and keep them alive. I support life. I support people getting the help they need. I support making it just a bit harder to get a gun immediately. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind. I’m not trying to. I watched this talk tonight with tears in my eyes as I thought about all the children, parents, teachers, and friends lost to needless violence.
I support less death. I support trying to do something about gun violence. Doing nothing is not the answer. And I don’t know what the answer is. But what we’re doing now isn’t working. So it’s time to try something new.
The Virginia Tech shooting will always be a part of my life, as long as I live as my wife was a student at Tech when it happened, and I covered it for our college newspaper. The pain of a death doesn’t end at the day of death.
Header image from Flickr: Young Cardinals fan and a machine gun