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Dan Savage Was Too Kind

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The man who finished somewhere between Carly Fiorina and George Pataki in the 2016 Republican primaries has some Deep Thoughts about the March For Our Lives protestors:

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum suggested on Sunday that students concerned about gun violence in their schools should learn how to revive wounded people instead of asking lawmakers “to solve their problems.”

Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, made the remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union, one day after an estimated 200,000 people participated in the student-led March For Our Lives in Washington demanding stricter gun control laws.

“How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter,” he said.

WHY WON’T THE KIDS AT PARKLAND PULL THEMSELVES UP BY THEIR BOOTSTRAPS AND LEARN THE ONE MAGIC TRICK THAT WILL SAVE PEOPLE SHOT BY SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS?

In a typical handgun injury, which I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ such as the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, gray bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

[…]

Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

I have seen a handful of AR-15 injuries in my career. Years ago I saw one from a man shot in the back by a swat team. The injury along the path of the bullet from an AR-15 is vastly different from a low-velocity handgun injury. The bullet from an AR-15 passes through the body like a cigarette boat traveling at maximum speed through a tiny canal. The tissue next to the bullet is elastic—moving away from the bullet like waves of water displaced by the boat—and then returns and settles back. This process is called cavitation; it leaves the displaced tissue damaged or killed. The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding. Exit wounds can be the size of an orange.

With an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate. The victim does not have to be unlucky. If a victim takes a direct hit to the liver from an AR-15, the damage is far graver than that of a simple handgun-shot injury. Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to the trauma center to receive our care.

Yes, if only more students at Stoneman Douglas had administered CPR to people who had had their internal organs obliterated by bullets — presumably while the shooter was still active! — we wouldn’t have had any of these problems. And the best part is that Santorum isn’t running for anything and doesn’t need NRA money — he’s implicitly saying that the survivors of Stoneman Douglas were responsible for the horrifying deaths of their peers because he believes it.

To be Scrupulously Fair, the santorum that takes the form of a former senator on television did not specify the other ways in which students could “deal with” a situation in which people are being shot with an AR-15. Presumably, especially if the student is very young they could save themselves by rushing the shooter. But he should make this clear so he gets that op-ed sinecure from Fred Hiatt.

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