Sunday, March 18News That Matters

'An overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer': Doctor explains why AR-15 shootings are so deadly

This is painful to read, but we need to know it. A doctor who treated shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School explains why AR-15 wounds are different from other gunshot wounds. It’s not just that people get shot more times:

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 they do not bleed to death before being transported to our care at a trauma center, chances are, we can save the victim. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal. 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. […]

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 travelling 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.

This is why it was both so unusual and so important that Veronique Pozner, the mother of Sandy Hook victim Noah Pozner, insisted on opening her son’s casket, and on telling us all—if we could bear to hear it—what had been done to her son:

Unprompted, Pozner continued: “We all saw how beautiful he was. He had thick, shiny hair, beautiful long eyelashes that rested on his cheeks. He looked like he was sleeping. But the reality of it was under the cloth he had covering his mouth. … His jaw was blown away. I just want people to know the ugliness of it so we don’t talk about it abstractly, like these little angels just went to heaven. No. They were butchered. They were brutalized. And that is what haunts me at night.”

This is what Republicans and the NRA are allowing to happen to children and to the teachers and coaches who try to save them. This is why we need an assault weapons ban now.