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Doctors slam Rick Santorum: 'CPR not effective' against assault weapons

Rick Santorum
Jim Young | Reuters
Rick Santorum

Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum's suggestion that student survivors of last month's deadly shooting rampage at a Florida high school should forget about supporting "phony gun laws" and learn CPR has drawn the ire of some physicians on social media.

"How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations that when there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that," Santorum said Sunday on CNN's State of the Union.

Stunned physicians were quick to counter Santorum's assertion.

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"As a surgeon, I've operated on gunshot victims who've had bullets tear through their intestines, cut through their spinal cord, and pulverize their kidneys and liver," tweeted surgeon and health care columnist Eugene Gu. "Rick Santorum telling kids to shut up and take CPR classes is simply unconscionable."

Rebecca Bell, a pediatric critical care physician in Vermont, tweeted that survival rates of trauma victims who require CPR at the scene of a shooting are "very, very low."

"Survival rate of people who don't get shot in the first place: much, much better, " Bell tweeted.

Trauma surgeon Joseph Sakran tweeted that he felt compelled to correct a "false perception" Santorum may have conveyed.

"Victims that go into cardiac arrest after #GunViolence are Bleeding to Death. CPR is NOT effective in this situation," Sakran tweeted.

Santorum's comments came one day after March for Our Lives rallies across the nation and around the world drew hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding safer schools and tighter gun laws. The march was created by student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a former student armed with an assault rifle killed 17 students and staff on Feb. 14.

The student survivors themselves mostly responded to Santorum by posting the outrage of others on social media. Emma Gonzalez, a Stoneman Douglas senior whose speeches have drawn widespread national applause, had this modest tweet: "#DisappointmentIn4Words You Should Learn CPR"

The student leaders, energized by the tragedy at their school, also organized a nationwide walkout of students from schools earlier this month. They have been pressing for safer schools, lobbying for more restrictive gun laws and demanding a ban on assault weapons.

Santorum, however, was unimpressed.

"They took action to ask someone to pass a law," Santorum said. "They didn't take action to say, 'How do I, as an individual, deal with this problem? How am I going to do something about stopping bullying within my own community? What am I going to do to actually help respond to a shooter?'"

A startled Van Jones, a liberal CNN commentator, said he had a son who was about to start high school.

"If his main way to survive high school is learning CPR so when his friends get shot ... that to me, we've gone too far," Jones said. "I'm proud of these kids. I know you're proud of these kids, too."

Santorum agreed but didn't slow his attack.

"I think everyone should be responsible and deal with the problems that we have to confront in our lives," Santorum said. "And ignoring those problems and saying 'They're not going to come to me,' and saying some phony gun law is gonna solve it. Phony gun laws don't solve these problems."