How does the death gurgling sound

What is the difference between “like” and “after” in “sounds like / like ...”

They do not mean the same, there is a subtle difference:

That sounds like gunfire. could be translated as That sounds as if someone was shooting with a gun., while That sounds like gunfire. would be translated as That sounds like gunshots..

The difference is the following: sound like gunshots means that the heard sound is taken as an indication that somebody shot a gun. While sound like gunshots is referring to the fact that the heard sound is similar to gunshots.

Since something which sounds like gunshots can very often be seen as an indication of gunshots, the extensions of the two expressions tend to overlap very often. But a critical situation, a situation where you can see the difference between the two expressions, is a situation where it is clear that the heard sound cannot be an indication of actual gunshots, for instance if the actual source of the sound is visible and is clearly not gunshots. Here, only That sounds like gunfire. is possible, because That sounds like gunfire. does not make sense anymore: Since the source of the sound is clearly not gunshots, the sound cannot be taken as an indication of gunshots.

This also holds, if to is used with other verbs of perception, like in smell like something for instance.