Trauma Surgeons Call for Gun Reforms in Wake of Mass Shootings

Dr. Roy Guerrero was a Uvalde pediatrician who testified before a U.S. House Committee Wednesday on gun violence. He described the horror of seeing two of the 19 children murdered in the Robb Elementary massacre. He said that the bodies were so pulverized that it was impossible to identify them by their clothes.

The medical profession has been developing techniques to save more gunshot victims in recent years. These include rapid evacuating of patients. However, trauma surgeons interviewed by KHNThey claim that even these improvements can only save a fraction of patients who are injured by military-style rifles. Many victims are left with severe injuries and die on the spot. They may never be admitted to a hospital. According to surgeons, victims who arrive at trauma centers have more injuries than in years past.

But, the doctors added, the weapons used aren’t new. Instead, they stated that the issue is that more of these especially deadly guns existThese weapons are being used more frequentlyIn mass shootings and the daily violence that plagues communities across this country.

Frustrated by the violence, doctors are demanding broad measures to stop the rise of gun violence.

The country’s plans for preventing another attack of this scale in the weeks ahead of the Uvalde school shooting remain unclear. While the House passed measures to reduce gun violence on Wednesday and Thursday, approval by the Senate is uncertain.

Many physicians agree that something significant must be done. “One solution won’t solve this crisis,” said Dr. Ashley HinkCharleston, South Carolina. He was a trauma surgeon resident at the Medical University of South Carolina when a white supremacist murdered nine Black members of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. “If anyone wants to hang their hat on one solution, they’re clearly not informed enough about this problem.”

The weapons being fired in mass shootings — often defined as incidents in which at least four people are shot — aren’t just military-style rifles, such as the AR-15-style weapon used in Uvalde. According to trauma surgeons, they are seeing an increase in semiautomatic handguns like the one used during Charleston’s church shooting. They can hold more ammunition than revolvers, and they fire faster.

In recent years, overall gun violence has increased. In 2020, firearm injuries were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. Gun-related homicides jumped almost 35% in 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedIn May. Handguns are most commonly responsible for the majority of these deaths.

Dr. Rob Todd at Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital blamed military-style rifles and the end of the national assault weapons ban in 2004 for higher levels of deadly gun violence.

A study recently publishedBy JAMA Network OpenIt was found that for every mass shooting victim, six others were also injured. Interviews with trauma surgeons KHNAccording to them, the number and severity of wounds per patient has increased.

“I feel we are seeing an increase in the intensity of violence over the past decade,” said Dr. Joseph SakranJohns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where he is a trauma surgeon. He spoke out about the number of shots a person receives and stated that more gun victims are being shot from close range.

Dr. Christopher KangTacoma (Washington), who is president-elect of American College of Emergency Physicians.

Many recent shootings left few survivors.

Each of the nine victims were shot multiple times by the Charleston massacre perpetrator. Only one of the victims was taken to the hospital and he didn’t have a pulse upon arrival.

Last year, shootings at three Atlanta-area spas left eight dead — only one person who was shot survived.

The chaos at a mass shooting scene — and the presence of an “active” shooter — can add crucial delays to getting victims to a hospital, said Dr. John ArmstrongProfessor of Surgery at the University of South Florida, Dr. “With higher-energy weapons, one sees greater injury, greater tissue destruction, greater bleeding,” he added.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent CNN, wrote about the energy and force of gunshotsAn AR-15-style rifle was used in the recent mass shooting in Buffalo. Gupta claimed that the energy is equivalent to dropping watermelons onto cement. Ernest MooreDirector of surgical research at Denver Health Medical Center.

Armstrong, who trained U.S. Army surgeon teams, said that medical advances have made it possible to save the lives of shooting victims over the years.

Those techniques, he said, include appropriate use of tourniquets, rapid evacuations of the wounded, and the use of “whole blood” to treat patients who need large amounts of all the components of blood, such as those who have lost a significant amount of blood. It’s used instead of blood that has been separated into plasma, platelets, and red blood cells.

Another strategy that works is to train bystanders to help shooting victims. A protocol called “Stop the Bleed” teaches people how to apply pressure to a wound, pack a wound to control bleeding, and apply a tourniquet. Stop the Bleed was born after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Connecticut in 2012, where 20 children and six others were killed.

The CDC has funded over a dozen projects to address gun violence in public health. These projects include studies on firearm injuries as well as the collection of data from emergency rooms across the nation.

Gun violence has been a motivator for some doctors to take up political action, according to one doctor. Dr. Annie AndrewsAndrews is a pediatrician from the Medical University of South Carolina and is running as a Democrat to win a seat in Congress on a platform that prevents gun violence. After the school shooting in Uvalde, Andrews said, many women in her neighborhood reached out to ask, “What can be done about this? I’m worried about my kids.”

Dr. Ronald StewartSan Antonio-based University Health’s chair of surgery, told KHN that the people shot in Uvalde had wounds from “high energy, high velocity” rounds. Four of them — including three children — were taken to University Hospital, which offers high-level trauma care.

Stewart and the hospital had witnessed such carnage before. The San Antonio hospital treated the victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting, which left more than 20 people dead.

Elizabeth Allen, University Health spokesperson, said that two of the four Uvalde shooting victims were discharged and that the other two were still in hospital as of Thursday.

It will take a bipartisan effort that doesn’t threaten Second Amendment rights to make meaningful change on what Stewart, a gun owner, called a “significant epidemic.” Stewart noted that public safety measures have curbed unintentional injuries in car crashes. For intentional violence, he said, progress hasn’t been made.

KHN (Kaiser Health News)This national newsroom produces in-depth journalism on health issues. In conjunction with Policy Analysis and Polling KHNThis is one of three major operating programs. KFF(Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed non-profit organization that provides information to the nation on health issues.

SubscribeTo KHN’Get a Morning Briefing for free