Fifteen Philadelphia eighth graders gasped as a photograph appeared on a screen in front of them. It showed a dead man whose jaw had been destroyed by a shotgun blast, leaving the lower half of his face a shapeless, bloody mess, reports the New York Times. Next came a picture of the bullet-perforated legs of someone who had been shot with an AK-47 assault rifle, and then one of the bloated abdomen of a gunshot victim with internal injuries so grievous that the patient had to be fitted with a colostomy bag to replace intestines that can no longer function normally.
These are among about 500 gunshot victims treated each year at Temple University. The hospital is trying to slow the rate of street killings by helping teenagers understand the realities of gun violence. A program called Cradle to Grave, brings in youths from across Philadelphia in the hope that an unflinching look at the effects that guns have in their community will deter young people from reaching for a gun to settle personal scores, and will help them recognize that gun violence is not the glamorous business depicted in television shows and rap music. About two-thirds of the participants were referred by the juvenile justice system. Children younger than 13 are not normally admitted. So far, about 7,000 teenagers have participated since it began in 2006, and no parent has complained, said Scott Charles, the hospital's trauma outreach coordinator.