The High Cost Of Gun Violence

In Philadelphia, emergency room doctors surround a shooting victim, giving him CPR.

"He's pulseless. We're going to call him, pronounce him dead now," said one of the doctors.

The victim is the 136th homicide this year in Philadelphia, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod. This trauma team's work lasts barely two minutes.

"He was walking around this morning. He was living a life. And now he's not," the doctor said.

His two minutes cost the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania $3,000. Never mind if the dead man has insurance. He doesn't even have a name.

A cold reality for John Doe, and a costly one. Hospitals absorb 80 percent of their gun-trauma costs, and sooner or later that means we all do, to the tune of $4 billion a year.

This is the first of three gunshot victims the trauma team will handle in the next 24 hours. For trauma surgeon Don Kauder, it has become routine.

"When someone comes in DOA, I want them assessed, pronounced and sent to the morgue as quickly as possible, because I can't afford to have a dead body blocking up our system," Kauder said.

In America's big cities, gun violence is down, but it's still an epidemic. More than three times a day, someone in Philadelphia ends up on a gurney dead or wounded by a bullet. Across the country, more American lives are lost to guns every two years than were lost in the entire Vietnam War.

One of the gunshot victims is Basil Manor. "I know I'm supposed to be dead right now, in the morgue," he said.

On average, someone in the United States is shot every five minutes.

Multiple shooting victim Basil Manor shows his scars.
"It had to be an automatic, a 9mm or a 45 or something. It was a big caliber gun," Manor recalled.

Manor, shot in a fight with a man he says hit his mother, is a veteran victim. Today's bullet is his sixth since 1993.

On average, Manor has been shot six times in the last six years. On average, since Manor caught four of those bullets at once. His badly scarred body is a tour map of the most disturbing trend they're seeing in the trauma bay: The new automatic weapons and the heavy damage they do.

"They're easier to point. They have more bullets in a clip," said Dr. Kauder. "And since more bullets are striking the victim, we have more things to take care of on any one particular person than we used to."

One in 7 gunshot victims has been shot before. Angelo Purdy, desperate and combative, is victim No. 3 for the day.

"This is a gentleman who was brought in by police car who was found down at the scene with a presumed gunshot to the head," said a trauma team doctor.

Purdy is lucky, if you can call it that. He dodged a bullet from close range. He'll get cleaned up and be on his way in a few hurs. He knows the drill, because he's been shot before.

It is repeat customers like Angelo Purdy who push trauma doctors like Don Kauder to the limits of their tolerance and compassion.

"It's frustrating, especially with the patients who are shot and then come back shot again. And you ask questions of yourself every once in a while: What's the point here? Why do I keep trying so hard if they aren't going to hold up their end of the bargain," Kauder said.

If this trauma team seems slow to celebrate the national downturn in big city gun violence, watch them for 24 hours and you'll see why: They're too busy to notice.

Part 4 of this special series on The CBS Evening News With Dan Rather airs Friday. For a preview of what's ahead and a look back at previous stories, click below.

CBS Evening News
Armed America
Starting July 13. Click headlines for previews.
T U E S D A Y The Costs of Accidents: More Than Money
W E D N E S D A Y Guns As A Way Of Life
T H U R S D A Y Victims: The Skyrocketing Price Of Care
F R I D A Y Concealed Weapons: Deterrent To Violence?
M O N D A Y What's In The Second Amendment?
I N T E A C T I V E Arm Yourself With The Facts