House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was said to have been conscious when emergency workers rushed him to the hospital with a bullet wound to the hip that he suffered in last Wednesday’s baseball field shooting. Reports that he had talked by phone with his wife before undergoing surgery fueled hopes of a quick recovery. Only when the hospital later that night listed him in critical condition and detailed how the bullet “travelled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding” did the extent of the damage – and the likely hard road that lies ahead for the Louisiana Republican – really hit home.
Too often, the devastation of gun violence for those who are wounded but survive shootings is overlooked. For every person killed by guns, there are two who are injured. Data on non-fatal shootings is less reliable than that on fatal shootings, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System uses a sample of hospital emergency departments to estimate that over the past five years, there were more than 200 non-fatal firearm injuries each day.
“Shot and Forgotten” is the term aptly applied to these survivors by the Trace, a nonprofit news organization that reports on gun issues, in a series of ongoing stories cataloguing the aftermath of non-fatal shootings. Among the struggles: multiple surgeries, long and painful recuperation, lasting medical problems, lost jobs, emotional issues and mounting medical bills. Then there is the strain on family members who not only watch the suffering of loved ones but also have the burden of providing care.
Most shootings, even the mass shootings that sadly are becoming too commonplace, generally don’t garner the kind of wall-to-wall coverage that marked Wednesday’s incident, in which Republican members of Congress were targeted by a gunman angry about President Donald Trump. But those on that baseball field who were so clearly and rightly terrified by bullets whizzing by them need to know that such violence is a fact of life for many Americans, particularly minorities living in crime-ridden urban communities.
If they now worry about their safety, how do they think children who are forced to do lockdown drills as part of their school routine feel? No doubt beefing up security details for lawmakers could lead to better protections for them, but that won’t address the larger issue of how to make all Americans safe.
There are no simple or easy solutions to the complex issue of violence in the United States. There is no one piece of legislation that would prevent every madman who is intent on hurting others from getting a gun. But America is insanely unique in its refusal to address the glut of firearms, including weapons of war for which there is little legitimate use, and their easy availability to people who should not have a weapon.
We, like all Americans, hope for the recovery of Scalise and Matt Mika, a lobbyist shot in the chest during Wednesday’s attack. And along with a healthy majority of the country, we wish the country’s lawmakers would enact common-sense gun control reform.