Ballistic Trauma–and 26 Dead

It’s called ballistic trauma. That’s the medical terms for getting shot. With a gun. Any gun. But these days, I’m thinking, we need to come up with some new term, something that describes the unimaginable horror that happened in Newtown. And Aurora. And Blacksburg, And about 15 other places in the past few years.

Do you know what happens when a bullet enters the the human body?

I didn’t either until I looked it up. Nor did I realize that there’s actually a field of study called “wound ballistics,” devoted to measuring and tracking the gruesome results that come from the kinetic energy of a bullet fired into a living thing.

There are two reasons for such study: to identify the best way to kill someone, and to help surgeons better understand the damage a bullet causes so they can try and repair it. You can actually read a chapter about this, courtesy of the Department of Defense.

Here’s what the chapter says: “With the perfection of guns that could shoot high-velocity missiles came the observation that the resulting wounds appeared as though they had been caused by an actual explosion within the body. External signs of injury were often slight, the entrance and exit holes small, but an unbelievable amount of damage occurred within.. . . Not only is the tissue pulped within a large region about the bullet path but intact nerves lose their ability to conduct impulses and bones are found to be broken that have not suffered a direct hit.”

I write this not to sicken you. But so that everyone who reads this–including those who believe that we all should have easy access to any gun we want, including those that shoot “high-velocity” missiles like the one used in Newtown–can, hopefully, get an indelible picture in their mind of what those guns do. And what they did. To six women and 20 babies.




18 Responses to “Ballistic Trauma–and 26 Dead”

  1. Star

    This is to sway toward gun control, of course, which is your right. We already have pretty strict gun controls. I am the survivor of multiple sexual assault during a home invasion in 1981, which is in my mind every day since.Although my then-husband was ex-special forces, we had no gun. The four men had three between them. Would it have been different? We will never know. But these are not easy issues. I despise the judgment of this administration and do not think anything they come up with will be effective or strengthen the country. I think, if anything, the emphasis needs to be on the mental evaluation part. That little school in a great neighborhood had a lockdown and had done all sorts of drills for leaving fast, etc. I was shocked this had already gone so far in impinging on the innocence of children. What a world. Yes, a bullet sends a body into shock–we know.

  2. Joe Saling

    Thanks, Deb, for your post.

    • Debra Gordon

      Thanks, Joe for sharing. Both my blog and China assault. I heard about that. Also horrific, but, as you said, at least they survived. Also, such events are far less common on a per capita basis in any country other than the US.

    • Charol Abrams

      Joe: The point of the headline about the incident in China is that the rage within some people is not stopped simply bc the a gun was not involved. We also don’t know what kind of “new security” measure were introduced into the schools. Perhaps the assailant was shot by a school official before he killed someone.

      Yes, guns – and knives, box cutters, airplanes, and cars do kill people – and sometimes lots of people in one event. When done willfully, a person makes a choice to kill others; that person is usually an angry man. So again, why not truly root out the problem and kill all men between ages 15 and 40, so that we come even closer to eliminating this problem?

      And a few other questions are salient in light of “Star December’s” tragic experience, as described briefly below my initial feedback:

      1) Considering the high number of gun-related deaths related to the drug trade, what do you suppose would happen if the firearms trade is forced underground and is the purview of criminals?
      2) Criminals don’t care about gun laws, so if you can’t wait for police to arrive and must defend yourself and your family, do you really want your attacker to have a big tactical advantage over you?
      3) Do you truly believe that the police can guarantee your absolute safety?
      4) Doesn’t it bother you that the gun-free “school-safety” measures were totally ineffective last Friday? Did they increase your confidence when considering the possibility of yielding your security to the authorities?
      5) If we tossed the Constitution and banned all guns, do you seriously expect this ban to be more effective than was the ban on alcohol?

      I don’t wish to monopolize Deb’s blog. She cogently expressed her concerns and others have responded accordingly, so I ask all who participated here to simply think about these additional questions without the need to reply. Time is short, especially this week. The issue here is very complex, however, and other related questions should be considered.

      (Apologies also for the geographical error; the event was in Sandy “Point”, not Sandy “Ridge”.)

  3. Joe Saling

    Thanks, deb for your. I will definitely share the link. And for Charol Abrams, I just want to ask you to compare the headline from the Web site you linked us to about the assault with a knife in China, to the headlines seen around the country yesterday and this morning. Here’s the headline from the story about the China assault. “Knife attack at Chinese school wounds 22 children.”

    Guns do kill people.

  4. Alisa Bowman

    I’ve read that the rifle he used is the most popular gun (or rifle?) sold in the US. That is amazing to me because I can only assume when one hunts, one doesn’t want the inside of the deer (or whatever) to turn into pulverized muck. I also disagree that our schools can do more. If you have a kid in school right now, then you are well aware of all the schools are already doing. They have paid for state of the art security systems. They practice lock down drills regularly. Teachers ARE trained for this very thing. In this situation, the guy shot his way into a school that was trained to deal with such a threat–and still 26 people died. Everyone did what the FBI tells schools to do and still 26 dead, most of them kids.

  5. Wanda Reese

    Powerful, Deb…very powerful. Shared.

  6. Charol Abrams

    We all feel deep grief from the loss of these women and children, but I must respectfully opine that the focus of your anger and your implied solution are both faulty, so please permit another perspective.

    The principal at Sandy Ridge spent part of her early years in a small town near my own hometown (, so I feel even more of a small link to her beyond being just another American involved in a tragedy. If she had been permitted to carry a handgun that day when she was forced to launch herself at the gunman, she and everyone in that school might still be alive.

    A mad man never attacks a police station; instead, it’s always the soft targets like a gun-free school zone. It makes as much sense to categorically ban guns as it does to kill all males ages 15 to 30 because a few of them choose to cause these tragedies.

    On the other side of the world that same day, 22 primary school children were assaulted by someone with a knife (

    And while it’s normal to feel deep grief for this senseless murder, we should also remember that 3000 children are murdered every day in the US – in the abortion chamber, but many people rationalize this destruction.(–8%20Facts%20about%20abortion%202011.jpg)

    And I don’t want to sicken anyone either, but if you really believe that you can rationalize abortion, then view the images for some of the other innocent children who have been destroyed ( and who never lived even 6 years of life on earth. I don’t know the problems experienced by this young shooter, but when the foundation for a nation includes the “right” to destroy children, then you can expect that it will permeate all corners of our existence – and affect other children.

    And to paraphrase Mother Teresa: If we let mothers kill their children, can we really ask other people not to kill each other – even the other young innocents among us?

    Thanks for your thoughts and concerns; thanks for letting me share mine with you.

  7. justasupset

    I agree that this is a tragedy that should NOT have happened, but we are forgetting that if the US took a stronger approach to safeguarding our children both here and abroad, perhaps we would have more of a fighting chance. Airline pilots are allowed to carry guns for protection, perhaps it is time we show teachers and principals how to use them to counteract the morons that go off shooing up innocent children. It is not the guns that are the problem, it is the people who commit these heinous crimes.

  8. Heather Banks

    Huge trauma even from Glocks. I was so proud of my son the night he was sworn in as a police officer more than 5 years ago. Then we went back to his house, and as he was locking up his gun, he explained what a huge hole it couldl put in someone (including him) even from quite a distance. And some of the rifles cops carry have a range of over a mile. But the criminals can easily outgun them. We MUST do something. Today I wore my Million Mom March button to church That was Mother’s Day 2000, and we wanted to “keep guns from killing children.” Not much progress. Nearly as many Americans die from guns every year as died in the entire Vietnam War.

    • Debra Gordon

      Thanks, Heather. You are SO right. This is a public health issue that we have to address at a grassroots issue because I don’t think our politicians are going to do it.

  9. Amy Furay

    Deb – well said and I plan to share. On the mental health side of things, I thought that this article was also powerful:

    • Debra Gordon

      Thanks, Amy for the comment and sharing. I already read the article on Facebook and shared it. My sister has a son with exactly the same problems. she is petrified of how her son might turn out. I plan another blog on mental health issues this week.

  10. Janet Byron Anderson

    Thanks for this post. Gun-love, gun rignts–these are idolized in the U.S. What about the love of children (and their older selves, adults?), and the right of children to live? Prayers, candles, vigils, hand-wringing–enough of this. President Obama should take the lead in showing courage, in weaning this country from its warped priorities. Gun-idolatory is a major health hazard in the U.S.

  11. Mitchell

    and I thought you were going to talk about the indirect ballistic trauma – what happens to those that do not get struck by a bullet – yet suffer incredible mental trauma…


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