The National Rifle Association (NRA) sent a letter to Senate leaders on Wednesday evening urging the chamber not to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, over Murthy’s belief that gun violence presents a major public health threat. The letter was issued on the same day that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would place a hold on Murthy’s nomination over similar concerns.
“Dr. Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun control measures raises significant concerns about his ability to objectively examine issues pertinent to America’s 100 million firearm owners and the likelihood that he would use the office of the Surgeon General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” wrote NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) executive director Chris Cox in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“Given Dr. Murthy’s lengthy history of hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms, along with his calls for the full weight of the federal government’s health apparatus to be used to target lawful gun ownership, there is little reason to believe that he would not work to further a gun control agenda if confirmed as Surgeon General. Simply put, the confirmation of Dr. Murthy is a prescription for disaster for America’s gun owners.”
The NRA specifically criticizes Muthy’s stance that doctors should ask patients about gun ownership and discuss gun safety procedures, his belief that more federal funding should be allocated towards gun violence research, and his support for a host of legislative gun violence prevention measures such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.
Murthy’s position isn’t particularly controversial in the medical community. Most major doctors’ groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, treat gun violence as a public health concern and believe it’s an entirely appropriate issue to discuss with patients. And past Surgeons General, including Reagan-appointee C. Everett Koop, have spoken out on the public health threats presented by guns. Koop co-authored a 1992 essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) entitled, “Time to Bite the Bullet Back.”
Murthy has already addressed his gun violence stance. In testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee earlier this month, he explained that his primary focus area as Surgeon General will be obesity prevention, which he believes is the “defining public health challenge” of our time.
“I do not intend to use the Surgeon General’s Office as a bully pulpit for gun control,” said Murthy in response to a question by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) about his position on guns. “That is not going to be my priority… My concerns with regards to issues like gun violence have to do with my experience as a physician, seeing patients in emergency rooms who have come in with acute injuries; but also seeing many patients over the years who are dealing with spinal cord injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, and other chronic complications from gun violence.”
At the time, that answer seemed to please GOP committee members. “I am glad to hear that,” said Alexander. “We have very well-motivated senators here who have different points of view on the Second Amendment issues and on the new healthcare law, and no one doubts the sincerity of each side.”
“I appreciated the comments that you have made on Second Amendment rights,” added Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY).