People who take care of young shooting victims rarely talk publicly about what they see and experience. As a result, the debate about gun violence is often theoretical, numbers-driven, and prone to strident sloganeering.
What actually happens is buried in euphemism: 20 first graders “die” at Sandy Hook, dozens of young children and teens are “killed” in one grim Chicago year, and so on. We don’t see the damage that bullets cause to young bodies, or watch as their lives slowly ebb away, as so many first responders and ER workers do. And so we remain one step removed from the reality of what guns can do–are doing–to our children.
Dr. David Newman, an emergency medicine physician at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, takes readers up close to the carnage in a recent NY Times opinion piece, “At the E.R., Bearing Witness to Gun Violence.” It’s a short essay, but graphically to the point:
“Another child I will never forget was a 13-year-old who was shot twice in the abdomen by an older boy who mistook him for one of a group that had bullied and berated him a week earlier. Slick with sweat and barely conscious, he groaned and turned to look at me. Soon after, he died in the operating room. His mother arrived minutes later, wide-eyed and breathless.”
Newman offers no solution to this epidemic, but points out the fallacy of many pro-gun arguments. Keeping a gun in the home for protection? A family member is 18 times more likely to die in that house than is an intruder.
Newman closes his essay with an eloquence only those who work so close to the mayhem can muster:
Sally Cox, a school nurse in Newtown, told Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” that when state troopers led her out of the school after the mass shooting they instructed her to cover her eyes. This was humane, and right. But some of us see every day what no one should, ever. If the carnage remains undiscussed, we risk complacency about an American epidemic — one that is profoundly difficult, but necessary, to watch, and to confront. That is why I bear witness.