Iraq War Doctor: Assault Weapons Are ‘Human-Killing Machines’
With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to vote Thursday on advancing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 to the full chamber, The National Memo interviewed Dr. Manan Trivedi, an Iraq war veteran, about the medical perspective on assault weapons from someone who has seen and treated firsthand the devastating human consequences of these lethal weapons.
Dr. Trivedi is a board-certified internal medicine physician and former Navy Lieutenant Commander who was the medical team commander for the first ground troops to cross the line and enter Iraq in 2003. He was twice the Democratic nominee for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district.
Through the progressive Truman National Security Project and Americans United for Change, Dr. Trivedi is advocating for an assault weapons ban by sharing his own experiences as a physician on the front lines of Iraq and South Central Los Angeles.
How did you get involved in wanting to make your views on assault weapons public through the media?
Throughout my career I’ve seen the effects of assault weapons in the military and in the civilian sector. Frankly, I think politically that there are a lot of folks who lack the courage to do anything about it. But if you’ve seen the things that I’ve seen, I don’t think it would be that hard to recognize that we need an assault weapons ban.
How has your experience in military medicine on the front lines of Iraq treating soldiers wounded by military weapons shaped your views on the current debate going on in the United States surrounding assault weapons and high-capacity magazines?
I think it’s shaped my views significantly. It’s one thing to say we need an assault weapons ban because you think it’s wrong or you don’t think they’re appropriate for people to have, but it’s another thing to say it because you’ve seen the devastating effects they can have on humans.
These things are human-killing machines, and I’ve seen it in Iraq. I’ve seen it with soldiers I’ve treated. I’ve seen it with enemies. And I’ve seen it in the civilian sector, too. I was in training for going to Iraq by helping run the trauma service in South Central Los Angeles. I was there for many gunshot victim trauma runs. I also was an EMT before I went to med school. So throughout my career in all stages I’ve seen the effects. And when you see that and try to treat it firsthand, it has a major effect and makes a major imprint on your mind.
Can you explain to readers the types of trauma injuries you treated and witnessed either in the war zones of Iraq or in South Central as a result of these types of weapons? How is it different from injuries caused by a shotgun or handgun?
Assault weapons, particularly, are just devastating. These things, in a spray of bullets, can amputate legs, whereas a gunshot couldn’t do that. The other thing is the munitions, the bullets, are made to kill humans so the entry wound might be really small, but then the exit wound is massive because they are made to mushroom and blow up as soon as they hit bone or flesh. So I’ve seen amputated legs from assault weapons. I’ve seen bodies cut in two or three because of these .50 calibers. That was mostly in Iraq, but I saw it a couple of times in South Central and it’s almost as if they knew what a surgeon would have to do to try to fix this; how to make it impossible. With a knife or a stab wound, you can stitch it up. You can figure out what to put together. But when there’s nothing to put stitches in, no flesh to get a hold of, which is what these assault weapons do, it makes it impossible to try to mend them back together.