Sep 052011
Fire Dept of New York Ambulance

The chances are you'll survive a bullet wound

The bad news is that if you get in a gun fight, you’ve got about a 50% chance of being hit by the other guy’s shooting (okay, there are so many variables at work as to make that a more or less meaningless statistic, but the bottom line is that you’re as likely to cop a round of incoming as not if you start shooting at someone who is shooting back at you).

The good news is that you’re not likely to die, at least if you get hit only once, assuming it not to be a ‘lucky’ shot (or should that be ‘unlucky’ shot?) and further assuming that you get competent medical treatment not long after.

This also assumes you’re both firing ordinary pistol bullets at each other.  If the other guy has a high powered rifle, then all bets are off.  Rifle wounds are massively more lethal than pistol wounds, and with a rifle being inherently more accurate to start with, if the other guy has a rifle and looks like he knows what to do with it, then you should think hard and long about your options before starting a firefight.

This immediately past weekend, from Saturday morning through Monday evening, has seen 42 gun shot victims in New York City – an amazing statistic when you consider it has pretty much the strictest gun control laws of the entire country.  What are people doing with guns in NYC?  Don’t they know it is illegal?

Mayor Bloomberg’s response is totally predictable.  The solution to 42 shootings in a single weekend is, he says, more gun control.  Yup.  He’s already made owning guns close to illegal and carrying guns totally illegal, and shooting people is illegal too.  So when these laws prove to be totally useless and completely ignored by criminals, his solution is to make them double illegal.

That will change nothing.  Indeed, it would be interesting to know how many lives New York’s current gun laws have saved – my guess is that the laws have cost lives rather than saved them, based on what has happened in almost the entire rest of the country, where there is an inarguable correlation between more permissive gun laws and fewer gun crimes and indeed, fewer crimes of violence in general – see our earlier discussion on this point.

Oh – be very afraid.  Not only does Mayor Bloomberg want to throw more stupidity at the hapless citizens of NYC, but he is calling for more federal restrictions on gun ownership too.  Yup.  NYC has a gun crime problem that is pretty much unique to NYC, so the mayor’s solution is to ask for gun restrictions in other states thousands of miles away; to make them more like NYC.  Here’s some news, Mayor Mike – if we wanted to live in a NYC type environment, we’d already be there.

It is hard to know which is the more breathtaking – his arrogance or his stupidity.  Both are regrettable.

But, ooops, getting sidetracked there.  The main topic of this post is not New York’s crazy dysfunctional gun laws, or the venally stupid politicians who create them, and neither is it to ponder on what strange chemical there must be in the city’s drinking water that causes NY’s citizens to vote for such politicians and to support such clearly wrong-headed policies.

Nope, we’re here to talk about gunshot wound survivability.

So, of these 42 people shot, including some people shot more than once, guess how many people were killed?  It will have to be a bit of a WAG (wild a**ed guess) because we don’t know how many were shot by pistols and how many by rifles or shotguns (it seems that most if not all were from pistols), but go ahead and have a guess.

What do you think?  30?  20?  10?  How many were killed?

The real answer is one.  Yes, 42 people shot, and only one killed.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Getting shot is no laughing matter, and even if you’re not killed, you might spend extended time in hospital, followed by months or years in physical therapy, and possibly lose the use of a limb or a sense permanently.  You definitely don’t want to get shot, and it is no laughing matter if you are shot.  Furthermore, the best sense I can get is that normally you’re looking at closer to a 20% mortality rate from pistol wounds – the 2.5% mortality rate in NYC this past weekend is much lower than normal.

However, whatever the mortality risk actually is – 2% or 20%, there are two very important lessons from this.

First, if you do get shot, don’t give up.  You’re not yet dead; you’ll probably live, and you’ve not yet lost the fight.  Keep your gun running, and stay in the fight.  Willpower, the drive to survive, and the essential need to triumph can keep you going; whereas a lack of willpower that causes you to give up as soon as you’ve been slightly wounded will definitely see you lose.

Expect to be wounded.  Mentally prepare yourself for it, and accept it when it happens, and stay in the fight.

Second, flip the scenario around.  Your opponent can also stay in the fight, even after soaking up one, two, three, four or more rounds (there have been cases of bad guys taking over ten rounds and staying active for some minutes).  Especially if the bad guy is high on some sort of drugs that alter his body chemistry and pain/injury response, he might not even notice the impact of the bullets and may keep on at you until he bleeds out or you land a kill shot that severs a vital artery or nerve.

Don’t stop to see what happens after firing one or two shots.  As long as the bad guy is on his feet and closing the distance on you, keep sending rounds at him.  Shoot him until the deadly threat he poses to you has ended.  This might be when he drops his gun and sinks to his knees, ten feet away, with his hands clearly visible and empty.  It might be when he turns and runs away.  But as long as he is advancing on you, and as long as the circumstances that caused you to need to use deadly force remain present, then he is still just as much a threat as before you hit him the first, second, and subsequent times.

Even seriously wounded people can still pull the trigger of the gun in their hand.  Even seriously wounded people can throw themselves on top of you and plunge a knife through your throat, your eyes, or your ribcage and heart.

There’s a reason the police don’t just shoot once at a bad guy.  Don’t go berserk and pepper him with 50 rounds, but don’t stint on the firepower either until he ceases to be a credible deadly threat.

Here’s a link to the article that counted 42 gun shot injuries.  Here’s a link to an article giving more details about eight of the casualties.

Update : The count is now up to 46 shootings, with two more hours of the day still to go before the end of the holiday weekend.  But still only one death.  Way to go, Mayor Mike.  Good job on that gun control thing you’ve got going there.

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