Obama nominated a very worthy candidate for Surgeon General. Dr. Vivek Murthy has degrees from Harvard and Yale, teaches medicine at Harvard, and is an attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is involved in medical nonprofits and a federal medical advisory board.
He may not even be considered by the whole Senate. What could he have done to deserve this? Lied on his income taxes? Not paid his nanny well enough? Conducted abortions? No. He had the utter temerity to recognize — and call out — a significance health concern in America today.
He identified guns as a public health issue. That, according to the NRA, makes him totally unqualified to be Surgeon General. Congress is completely in the back pocket of the NRA, especially in an election year, so there is no chance of him being confirmed. The administration will probably yank his nomination.
Can you think of any other case where an identified agent which resulted in the deaths of over 30,000 Americans in 2010 would not be considered a public health issue? A crisis, even? No. And the situation gets worse when you look at young people, especially young African-American males: guns are the leading cause of death among African-American teenagers. Not just homicide, either: a lot of suicides are committed with guns. Guns killed twice as many kids in 2010 as cancer did. A gun in a home is eleven times more likely to be used in a completed or attempted suicide than in a self-defense scenario. Homicide? Seven times more likely than self defense. Accidental shootings? Four times.
Identifying gun deaths as a public health issue does not necessarily mean people can’t have guns. But it might mean that gun owners be required to take safety courses or pass a test to be licensed (a standard for anyone wanting to drive a car — and cars are not designed to kill things). They might be required to pass background checks — God forbid some would-be gun owner has to be shown not to have spent time as a guest of a psychiatric facility. And they might have to deal with waiting periods — which might mean you can’t buy a gun at Wal-Mart the day your wife tells you she’s leaving. It might save some lives (a lot of completed suicides are impulsive, and guns are a very good way to kill yourself if you are real serious), but who cares about that? It would require hunters to get their ducks in a row, metaphorically speaking, well before the season started, and that’s just too much trouble. Then there are restrictions on where you can carry your gun: the idiot who carried his assault rifle into a grocery store to show he valued his Second Amendment right should be able to scare the crap out of anyone he wants. Other people should just have to cope.
(And let’s not get into the intersection of guns and “stand your ground laws.” That’s an entirely separate and potentially horrific kettle of fish.)
The Secret Service calls in anyone who says anything even vaguely threatening about the president. Yet gun nuts have shown up at presidential rallies toting arms suited to going to war. Guns pose a greater threat to the public at large than terrorists — yet what are we collectively worried about?
The NRA talks about the chilling effect that gun regulations has on their exercise of their Second Amendment rights. They ignore the fact that all Constitutional freedoms have had limits placed on them: you can’t yell “fire in a crowded theater, for example, and according to the Supreme Court this year, the cops can have you forcibly removed from your home so they can ask someone else to authorize a search of the property without a warrant.
The zealots at the NRA do not care about the rest of us. They don’t care how many kids kill themselves because guns are so easy to get. People die in droves from guns every year, and the NRA fights every single effort to regulate them — no matter how minor the inconvenience it would cause, no matter how many lives it might save.
And now, a good candidate for the highest medical office in the land who recognizes a public health risk when he sees it will never get to hold that post.
I don’t know about any of you, but this has gotten very, very old. I am trying not to wish the worst on the heads of the NRA, that their child might be killed by a gun, because I am a better person than that, but it’s hard.