Notable Quotables on Gun Violence in Philadelphia
Two guns recently confiscated by police in Philadelphia. Photo by Tara Murtha.
Physicians for Social Responsibility hosted a presentation this week at the Friends meetinghouse for approximately 100 community members concerned about the causes and impact of gun violence in Philadelphia. One chilling statistic projected on the wall made clear the scope of the problem: Between 2001 and 2010, 1446 American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. In the same period of time, 3394 Americans were killed on streets of Philadelphia. Of those, 2770 were killed with guns.
Dr. C. William Schwab, a surgeon who specializes in firearm injury and is the director of two related Penn-based initiatives — the Firearm & Injury Center at Penn and the Trauma Network — discussed the medical realities of shooting victims:
- “We kill more children with guns in America than all the other combined G-20 countries. That’s a terrible thing to say about we the people of the United States.”
- “If I want to train someone how to treat gun wounds, I tell them to join the military or come to Philadelphia.”
- “No training, in the military or not, could have prepared me for what happened in the city of Philadelphia in the late 1980s to the early ‘90s. In our hospital alone, we went from almost no gun wounds, a few, to seeing one a day, to 525 in a single year.”
- “It is violence — and the insertion of a gun makes it fatal violence… The gun does predict the rate of death, the amount of injury and what we have to do.”
- “[Beginning around 1989,] we saw an absolute change in the pattern of wounding … all these pistols, they hit the market, they saturated the market; they hit the black market, they saturated the black market; and the next thing you know, the patients started to roll into the emergency room not shot once, not shot twice, shot two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine times. That changed the entire paradigm of what I had to do as a surgeon… It truly changed the outcomes… despite what we think is some of the best medicine in the world.”
- “I will tell you that since 1995, we have not only stalled [in firearm injury prevention research], we have taken two or three steps backwards… We failed to provide the scientists of this world the necessary data and funding to help solve this problem… The CDC was gagged.” (Dr. Schwab is referring to the financial “gag” on firearm and gun violence research. Learn more here. )
- “We’ve never had a problem with long rifles or shotguns. There’s not a single piece of data to say that this country has a problem with those.”
- “The only way were going to get any traction in lowering the toll … is we go ahead and approach it as we did 70 years ago when somebody said, ‘He or she has cancer. Oh my god.’… How much money would it take?… 100 million dollars. That’s seed money.”
Dr. John Rich, a faculty member at Drexel University’s Center for Nonviolence, discussed why gun violence should be treated as a public-health problem:
- “It depends who gets shot and killed whether we act on it or not. In every city around the country, young people of color are most likely to be victims of violence.”
- “Violence and its effects are ubiquitous in our society. So we can’t, with the data we have, really estimate the burden of trauma… They never count the young people who have to step over puddle of blood on their way to school.”
- “You talk with young people they often feel like they’re [treated as] the ‘them’ of the ‘us and them.’ We have a complex but familiar social problem of people who exist on the margins of our society.”
- “Social justice is our goal as a means to improving public health… We know violence is a chronic, recurrent disease.”
- “If we follow people who have been shot or stabbed, 44 percent have been shot or stabbed again; 20 percent are dead. So we know it’s a high-risk event, much like a heart attack.”
And Shira Goodman, the executive director of CeasefirePA, addressed legislative policy — specifically, the background check bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that the Senate Judiciary Committee has passed on to the Senate floor for a vote in early April. Goodman urged Pennsylvanians to contact senators to ask them to vote yes.