So you want to help a gunshot victim/classmate/music fan

81Nb0HK1dlL._SL1500_If you, like millions of unwitting Americans, are a habitual risk-taker who regularly defies death by attending concerts or going to nightclubs or walking across your college campus to get to class, you’ve probably wondered, “What should I do if I’m minding my own business, trying to live a normal life, and someone gets shot?” 

Since we, as a nation, have allowed the NRA to shut down all discussion of how to prevent people from being shot, here are three products you can buy, carry, and use to save lives if—hell, let’s go ahead and say when—someone in your vicinity is shot.

Standard disclaimers: My EMT certification lapsed years ago, I’m not providing this advice as any kind of a medical professional, and this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. It’s the simplest set of options that I find feasible to carry with me on a regular basis. I’m not endorsing any of the products I’m linking to; I carry some of them but have not (yet) used them in trauma situations.

This is where I would be expected to remind you to wear latex gloves when using the products below, but you know what? If you’re involved in a shooting, there’s going to be blood fucking everywhere and it’s going to get on you. Buy gloves if you want; you’ll still need to clean up with bleach and water when it’s all over.

Also, remember that the first thing to do in a shooting is to get out of danger.

1. Occlusive dressing: If someone is shot (or stabbed, or otherwise punctured) in the chest, you need to prevent air from entering through the wound. Air in the chest cavity can cause pneumothorax, a.k.a. lung collapse, or tension pneumothorax, where air accumulating in the chest cavity compresses the opposite lung, the heart, and the major veins. As my EMT textbook says, “Death can occur rapidly.” You can use literally any air-tight material to seal a chest wound, even a plastic bag. Don’t worry if it’s not sterile; whatever caused the wound has already introduced plenty of bacteria. You’ll also need to make sure air can escape from the chest, which is why commercial dressings are preferable (if you’re improvising, you have to lift one edge of the dressing during exhalation). Here’s a 2-pack of chest seals for $16.79 on Amazon that automatically allow air to escape, but not enter, the wound. It’s a small package, easily carried in a backpack or purse. A 2-pack is handy for gunshot situations, because you can cover the entry and exit wounds. 

Oh yeah, remember to check for exit wounds.

2. Hemostatic agents: Yes, you need to apply pressure to stop bleeding, but for gunshot wounds you’ll likely need more than that. There are now multiple commercial products that cause blood to clot quickly. You can buy gauze that packs into a wound, or injectors that shove absorbent pellets into a deep puncture. Sponges and powders are also available. Buy whichever product you can carry most easily—that way you’re more likely to have it when needed. Pro tip: Read the directions ahead of time.

3. Tourniquets. You may have learned to use these in scouts, you may have heard since then that they aren’t safe and shouldn’t be used at all. If bleeding can’t be controlled by direct pressure, use one. Any problems that arise from tourniquet use can be dealt with at the hospital; they are less serious than the problem of bleeding to death. You can improvise tourniquets, using material that’s fairly wide—4″ is recommended, but commercial tourniquets are cheap, simple to use, and easy to carry.

I also recommend taking a basic first aid course, and a good self defense course (preferably taught from the empowerment model).

And of course, fuck the NRA. 

Remarks from Gun-Free UT Rally

Gun-Free UT rally

Gun-Free UT rally

Today I spoke at a campus rally against the implementation of a state law that will allow concealed carry of firearms on public college campuses throughout Texas. For an hour, informed, compassionate, articulate staff and faculty at UT spoke out about the many ways this law will endanger the campus community. I was particularly struck by the words of Matt Valentine, a fellow staff member here at UT, who told us something remarkable about the Founding Fathers’ interpretation of the Second Amendment as it pertains to college campuses:

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the issue of campus carry in 1824, and didn’t have to look far for an originalist perspective—Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in attendance. The board resolved that “No Student shall, within the precincts of the University … keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder.”

Tragically, while our rally was in progress, a mass shooting was taking place on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Initial reports indicate ten people have died and another 20 are wounded.

Here’s a rough transcript of my remarks:

I work in the School of Undergraduate Studies here at UT; I was an undergraduate and graduate student here, and I’ve taught here. I’ve also taught self defense for over fifteen years. There are some counter-protestors here with signs about how guns are necessary for self defense, and I want to speak particularly to them today. I teach and write about violence prevention and self defense policy, so I want to talk about the impact this law will have on women’s safety, and I especially want to address supporters of the law who claim it will reduce campus sexual assault and make women safer. It will not.

Sociologist Jennifer Carson, writing in the journal Violence Against Women, has described our culture’s “fetishizing of the gun as the primary tool of self-defense. The NRA,” she points out, “has become the predominant public face of self-defense, and its positions and politics are often seen, erroneously, as representing those of all self-defense advocates.”

As a teacher of feminist empowerment self defense, I’m here to tell you the NRA does not speak for me, or our movement. the NRA’s insistence that women must have guns to stay safe is unsupported by data. There is a robust research base to the contrary, most recently a random controlled trial involving 900 college women that was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that women who participated in feminist-informed self defense–not gun-based–experienced a 50% reduction in sexual assault. Resistance can and does stop sexual assault, without guns. It does so every day. Despite the proven effectiveness of such training, the NRA claims that women have no power or agency over their own safety unless they carry a gun. Their support of this law, their desire to flood our campus with guns, is an attempt to make women complicit in the ongoing militarization of our communities. We will not comply.

If we allow guns in classrooms, office, and dorms at UT, more women will die. This is a fact. Dr. Deobrah Azrael at the Harvard School of Public Health said the following about campus carry laws earlier this year: “What we know is where there are more guns, more women die. That’s just incontrovertibly true. . . . everything we know suggests that access to firearms increases the likelihood of death and injury. Disproportionately to women . . . . If more women have guns, have them accessible, the likelihood that more women are going to die by suicide goes way up. What we know is that . . . when there are more guns and they’re more accessible, unintentional gun deaths will increase. What we know is that alcohol and guns are a terrible combination.”

All of which is incredibly relevant to the college environment. If there is a gun in your dorm room, actuarial evidence shows—the statistics compiled by insurance companies, not lobbyists—that you are at greater risk of dying from that gun than from any other possible event happening. Having a gun in your dorm room is the greatest threat to your life on campus.

I’d also ask everyone here to remember that if we allow concealed carry all over campus, we are giving rapists and potential rapists permission to carry a weapon everywhere with them, which will make the commission of rape that much easier for them. Rape is already a crime of power. The last thing we need to do is give rapists firepower.

Thank you.