Of all the chilling moments in Jason Fagone’s recent piece, “What Bullets Do to Bodies,” there is one that particularly hits home. Dr. Amy Goldberg, a surgeon and trauma chief at Temple University in Philadelphia, remarks about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and the sheer amount of devastation that took place in just five minutes.
Dr. Goldberg mentions that while 20 students and six educators were shot and killed, not one was able to be transported to a hospital. She says, “The fact that not a single one of those kids was able to be transported to a hospital, tells me that they were not just dead, but really really really really dead.” Their bodies were so riddled with bullets that there was no hope of treating or reviving them. Even our best medical treatment would be no match for the military-grade weapons and high-capacity magazines that the shooter was able to obtain.
It’s not often that Members of Congress are brought in close to the trauma of gun violence. We don’t have to stand in the emergency room as gunshot victims are rushed in. We don’t have to wake up in the middle of the night reliving the painful aftermath of a mass shooting. Far too many of my colleagues believe that tweeting out our thoughts and prayers is sufficient.
It’s been four years this month since the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey bill that would have strengthened background checks and implemented a variety of other commonsense reforms. In that time, more than 400,000 people in the United States have suffered from gunshot wounds. In the face of these acts of gun violence, our inaction has made us complicit. Whether it occurs in idyllic small towns like Newtown or in cities like Hartford, Bridgeport, Chicago and Philadelphia - we have accepted gun violence as the status quo.
In the four and a half years since Sandy Hook, Congress hasn’t passed a single measure that would make the next mass shooting or the next murder of kids in this country less likely. The American public has made up its mind that they want a background check system that isn’t full of holes. They want to make sure that everybody who buys a gun through a commercial sale has to prove that they’re not a criminal before they buy it. They want to crack down on illegal gun purchases and on the military-style weapons and ammunition that facilitate the murder of dozens of innocent people in a matter of minutes. Congress has responded with total, unconscionable deafening silence.
Maybe my colleagues fail to act because they haven’t seen what Dr. Goldberg sees in her hospital day in and day out. They don’t see how a gunshot wound can damage a person or rip through an entire community. This doesn’t have to happen, but this epidemic will continue without end if Congress continues to sit on its hands and do nothing.