In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, what else is worthy of our concern? How about the victims of crime, or in this particular instance, gunshots.
My pager goes off again: The police are en route to my hospital. They’re bringing a gunshot victim. E.T.A.? Right now.
People are still shooting people. I know, there are no outraged anecdotes by criminal reform activists about this, even though there is a non-strop stream of stories of how jails and prisons are incubators for disease and will result in mass havoc. And they are and they will. But in this time of playing the emotions of the intellectually puny, everybody seems to forget that there are still bad people out there doing bad things to other people.
The stories of the victims of those bad things are disfavored as they don’t push the reform agenda, and so the liars ignore them as if they never happen while extolling the virtues of prisoners as if they’re all Mother Teresa but for some non-violent weed bust.
Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.
Guns don’t shoot themselves, kids. Somebody pulls the trigger. But lest the next interest group, the anti-gun group, see this as a condemnation of gun violence rather than a condemnation of crimes of violence regardless of whether the harm is done by gunshot or a brick to the head, the mechanism of harm to the victim doesn’t alter the fact of harm to the victim.
We need I.C.U. beds, we need ventilators, we need personnel to care for the wave of Covid-19 patients. But gunshot victims are now fighting for space and resources inside America’s overcrowded I.C.U.s.
Does the knifed victim get left in the hallway? Does the run-over victim have to sit in the waiting room?
At this moment in time, hospitals are dealing with COVID-19 plus. The plus gets short shrift, and despite the mayor of Baltimore pleading with people to stop shooting other people (which is a generally good idea even if we weren’t in a pandemic), the unfortunate fact remains that crime happens, people harm other people, and the people who are harmed need medical treatment, whether the harm is caused by a Glock or a baseball bat.
We don’t yet know how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect gun violence. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, crime is down overall since social distancing mandates went into effect. But shootings have not slowed and even may be increasing.
Roaming the streets looking for people to roll may not be as much fun as it used to be before there was a decent chance of being infected and dying for it, but the extremes of advocacy tend to obscure the real problems we face and the real suffering it can cause. Pandemic aside, crime still happens and cherry picking (or outright fabricating) sad stories doesn’t make the person in whose body the bullets reside any less shot. Or beaten. Or knifed.
Much as the scarcest resource at the moment might be our attention, and it would be great if people stopped shooting other people while ICU beds are needed for COVID-19, the reality remains that bad things continue to happen, that the same anecdotes used to play our emotional heartstrings are told over and over, and that reality continues to bite us in the butt and reveal the lie of one-trick ponies who only want to pound on their cause.
The steadfast refusal to accept the premise that life isn’t simple, even during a pandemic, means that we’re stiil accomplishing little more than trading the heads on the corpses at a time when it would be really useful to face the harsh realities we’re facing rather than pretending any one cause matters to the exclusion of all the other harms that don’t stop just because we prefer to focus elsewhere.