'More kids in our country are dying from guns': ER doctors explain how gunshots damage a child's body

NOW: ’More kids in our country are dying from guns’: ER doctors explain how gunshots damage a child’s body

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- So far this year, there's been more than 140 mass shootings in the nation. The issue of gun violence hitting every city, including Milwaukee. But, in our city, the victims overwhelmingly seem to be young people.

Milwaukee doctors said firearms continue to be the leading cause of death for children and young adults in Milwaukee. So far in 2023, Milwaukee police report that 49 children between the ages of 2 to 19 became victims of gun violence. MPD said eight have died so far.

A survivor of gun violence who was shot over five times when he was 16 years old said his bullet wounds come with a daily struggle.

"Oh I was scared, I was scared," said Jonathan Baldwin when the unimaginable happened to him.

"I was shot eight times," said Baldwin.

The aspiring college athlete was just 16 years old when his life turned upside down. Baldwin said his family was held at gun point by two men at a family reunion. He said he fought back when he saw his sister on the ground with a gun to her head.

That's when Baldwin was shot four times in the stomach, once on his right side, twice on his right leg and once on his right thigh.

"I couldn't sit up I had to lay down for about two to three days," said Baldwin.

He's now in his 30's and said he still gets sharp pain from his injuries. He also suffers from PTSD.

"He's one of the lucky ones," said Dr. Michael Levas, E.R doctor at Children's Wisconsin. "Because Baldwin is still here with no damage to his vital organs."

"In kids their organs are closer. There's a higher likelihood of the bullet actually doing damage to something vital," said Dr. Levas.

The doctor said gun violence involving young victims is getting worse. Dr. Levas said they've helped an alarming number of victims so far this year.

"To date just through March, we are nearly at 40 with three deaths so we have one gun death so far every month," said Dr. Levas.

In 2022 they counted 130 youth treaded for gun wounds. 12 died.

"We're also seeing the severity increasing. There are more injuries to the head which you know obviously results in a very worse outcome for the victim," said Dr. Levas.

To study the severity of gun shots on a child's body, Dr. Stephen Hartgarten, doctor and professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, created ballistic videos that show a 32-caliber bullet ripple through gelatin, replicating the body of a 7 to 15-year-old.

"The purpose in doing so helps us to understand how these bullets adversely affect tissue and that helps us improve and strengthen our care," said Dr. Hartgarten.

Dr. Levas adds that the damage caused by these bullets is unimaginable.

"Our surgeons, some of them train with the military because it’s the same type of wounds that we see in war," said Dr. Levas.

Wounds that stay on the bodies of those who survive, like Baldwin. For him it's a reminder of how far Milwaukee has to go to halt those deadly trends.

"What Milwaukee has to realize that it starts with us. It starts with the older people. We have to find a way to get to our youth," said Baldwin.

For Dr. Levas, it's about gun ownership safety. He heavily advises folks to lock up and make sure their guns don’t end up in the wrong hands.

"More kids in our country are dying from guns than anything else. All of our kids are at risk," said Dr. Levas.

Children's Wisconsin offers families who've been victims of gun violence help with their initiative called Project Ujima. To learn more, take a look at their website.

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