By Amitabh Pal on May 30, 2014

Gun-rights groups rejoiced after they stalled President Obama's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, because of his call for commonsense gun safety measures. Now, even after the killing spree at Isla Vista, his nomination is still likely doomed.

An Indian-American physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Murthy was nominated in November. But his nomination lost traction because he offended the gun lobby with his forthright stand on gun control.

A group he helped establish and headed, Doctors for America, sent a letter to Congress in January of last year urging representatives to take measures to halt the epidemic of gun violence in this country. Among the recommendations that riled up the National Rifle Association and allied groups was a proposal to lift a ban on doctors from discussing guns with their patients.

“Remove prohibitions and barriers that keep health professionals from protecting our patients from harm,” the letter stated. “Yet gun violence is an area where both state and federal policies have prohibited us from doing our job.”

The letter added, “We have far too few resources to adequately treat patients with mental illnesses.”

Murthy tweeted about the NRA’s obstinacy after the Newtown massacre: “NRA press conference disappointing but predictable—blame everything in the world except guns for the Newtown tragedy.”

That comment provoked the wrath of the Gun Owners of America. The head of the organization, Larry Pratt, also attacked Murthy because he was in favor of physicians talking to patients about gun safety.

“He’s a willing tool of the state, even as German doctors and Soviet doctors would send to the regime information about the people that were in their care,” Pratt said in an interview. “This is an extremely alarming attitude. This guy clearly looks at himself as a government functionary before he considers anything about medicine.”

The NRA may believe its attack on Murthy is an easy way to shore up its ranks.

“Here is a man of color speaking out on gun violence,” Ladd Everitt, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told The Progressive. “Here is a man who is attempting to make it a public health issue. Here is a man nominated by Obama. It is good politics for the NRA—a way to flex its muscles and stoke its base.”

Many of Murthy’s fellow physicians have rallied to his defense.

“The NRA opposes Murthy solely on the grounds that he has advocated reasonable and mainstream forms of gun regulation, including an assault-weapons ban, a limit on ammunition sales, and required safety training,” the New England Journal of Medicine stated in a March editorial. “Given that there are more than 30,000 firearm deaths in the U.S. each year, Murthy’s views on potential safeguards are unsurprising.”

Unfortunately, the gun lobby’s hostility has already succeeded in muffling Murthy’s voice. He pledged to the Senate that he would focus on issues of diet and obesity—and not gun violence—if confirmed.

And at his commencement address at the Yale School of Medicine on May 19, he didn’t even mention gun violence.

One week later, there was the rampage in California.

Murthy has yet to comment.

The White House has said it is “recalibrating” his nomination, and a vote has been put off by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

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Comments

Dr. Murthy could not get confirmed in the democratically controlled Senate even after they broke the rules to allow for a simple majority. Even democrats won't vote for this guy. He is way out in left field. The continued blame on the NRA and conservatives is off base. Americans are smart enough to know that the Surgeon General should know more about medicine than politics. Dr. Murthy is a hand picked politician - with a stethoscope.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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