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Citizens need to see the destruction military-style weapons wreak, surgeon says

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In the weeks since the mass shooting at a Texas school, there have been at least 17 other U.S. shootings where at least four people were killed or injured. That's from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks these incidents. And surgeons are the ones who witness the carnage most never see - trauma surgeons like Amy Goldberg. She's treated thousands of gunshot wounds at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, and she says she believes America wouldn't be numb to gun violence if people saw what she sees.

We're speaking one week after the killings of all these children in Uvalde, Texas, and two of their teachers. And after Sandy Hook, you reflected and said we'd lost our teachable moment as a country. What did we not learn? What did we not see then that could be different today?

AMY GOLDBERG: When I made that comment, I was - as the country was - so devastated by what had occurred at Sandy Hook and by all of the mass shootings that occur in our country and in our inner cities. I felt we had lost our teachable moment of really seeing the destruction that these military-style weapons produce.

FADEL: So you want people to see. What do you want people to see today that they haven't been seeing? 'Cause we're having mass shootings constantly now in this country.

GOLDBERG: I think the citizens need to see the destruction of what these military-style weapons do, and that would be pictures. And I don't say that lightly. I don't say that with any disrespect, but I'm desperate. All the trauma surgeons need this to stop.

FADEL: I mean, I think in many ways people talk about how sanitized the actual coverage of these mass shootings are because we don't see the actual images of what bullets do to bodies. But what would it change if people did see it?

GOLDBERG: We would know that people know exactly what these weapons do, that they've seen what they've done and that they've chosen to do nothing. And that I just cannot believe - that Americans in this country would see what these weapons do to our children, our teachers, our community, and that they would stand by and do nothing.

FADEL: Let's say those images are released today. Would it actually make a difference? Are there moments in history where you think it did?

GOLDBERG: Emmett Till's mom had an open casket, and I'm sure that had some impact on the civil rights movement. The napalm girl - you know, those images, brought into our homes during the Vietnam War, I think significantly made change.

FADEL: What do you say to people who say it's too insensitive to the families who lost their loved ones?

GOLDBERG: I would say, I'm sorry, and I think it's actually the opposite. I would never do it disrespectfully, but I'm too sensitive now and too desperate now, and I don't think I stand alone.

FADEL: There have been modern-day moments when we've seen horrific images - I think of a family killed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and a little girl covered in their blood. I remember that picture from the Iraq war. Alan Kurdi, the Syrian child that was washed up on the shore - that really mobilized a lot of people to talk about that conflict in a different way. What is different about mass shootings here than violence we see abroad or in marginalized communities?

GOLDBERG: I don't think people want to see these pictures because I don't think people want to believe it could be them or their loved ones. And I think it's very easy to say these things happen to other people because it's such a devastating thought.

FADEL: We have seen images of violence against, frankly, Black bodies in the history of the U.S. And like you said, Emmett Till sparked the civil rights movement in many ways. But is it enough just showing the pictures?

GOLDBERG: I do believe that showing pictures of all people, you know, that have been shot - not just those Black bodies, you know, in my North Philadelphia community, but I think I had spoken about showing the pictures from Sandy Hook so that we would try to get everybody to care just a little bit more because it doesn't seem like people cared about the shootings that were going on in my community. And I was desperate to wonder - what would it get to get people to care, and what would it get to change our legislation for these military-style weapons?

FADEL: Dr. Goldberg, thank you so much for your time.

GOLDBERG: Well, thank you for having me on today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.