The NRA is about to veto Obama’s Surgeon General nominee

President Obama’s nominee for Surgen General is in jeopardy, thanks to a group of spineless Senate Democrats who fear the NRA. Dr. Vivek Murthy might not even get a vote.

Firearms activists usually wade into nomination fights only when the office in question is one that has something to do with guns – judges, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, etc.

Dr. Murthy is eminently qualified to serve as the nation’s public health leader. He trained at Harvard and Yale, and is an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He would be the first Indian-American to hold the position.

Doctor via Shutterstock

Doctor via Shutterstock

The problem, according the National Rifle Association, is that he, like most Americans, supports tougher gun regulations. Most Americans, however, won’t dump a ton of resources into tight Senate races, so Democrats in swing states are running scared of the NRA using this vote against them in the coming elections.

Murthy has indeed endorsed greater gun control. Surprise! He’s an urban Democrat from Boston who worked as an emergency room doctor and saw firsthand the aftermath of gun violence.

He supports the Affordable Care Act, too — something that hardly endears him to Republican senators who grasp at any excuse to stymie the President, and health care reform.  Do you know who else supports the Affordable Care Act?  The AMA.

Dr. Murthy’s position are mainstream American medicine

It would be one thing if a Surgeon General nominee came out stridently against the medical consensus. If a president went off the deep end and nominated someone who opposed vaccinations, for example, that doctor would deserve neither confirmation nor a medical license.

Murthy’s position on guns, however, is not extreme — it’s in line with prevailing medical views. The American Medical Association’s official policy statements include commonsense warnings that only the NRA and other true believers could oppose.

The AMA supports educating the public regarding methods to reduce death and injury due to keeping guns, ammunition and other explosives in the home,” one policy states.

The organization also supports “the right of local jurisdictions to enact firearm regulations that are stricter than those that exist in state statutes and encourage state and local medical societies to evaluate and support local efforts to enact useful controls.”

It favors waiting periods and background checks for all gun purchases and came out against Florida’s gag rule that attempted to prevent doctors from inquiring about gun safety in the home.

The AMA even cites current gun culture and lack of regulation as a “serious threat to the public’s health inasmuch as the weapons are one of the main causes of intentional and unintentional injuries and deaths.”

Some doctors disagree with AMA policy positions. They tend to become senators instead of Surgeon General.

Three physicians currently serve in the U.S. Senate: Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn, Wyoming’s John Barrasso and Kentucky’s Rand Paul. All are Republicans who oppose public safety measures that would regulate firearms.

A fourth doctor has a slim chance of joining them in November. Dr. Monica Wehby seeks the GOP nomination in Oregon to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who is a favorite in a blue state. She served in the AMA leadership when it reaffirmed many of its gun policies in 2013, but she resigned to run for Senate. She now tells Republican primary voters that she is all for the right to keep and bear arms.

Senators have a responsibility to ignore the NRA when it takes such a ludicrous stand

The NRA has a right to support or oppose any nominee it wants. Senators have a responsibility to ignore the NRA when it takes such a ludicrous stand. They should judge Murthy on his qualifications as a doctor, not on the paranoid fears of a group that sees government bogeyman ready to seize its members guns around every corner.

Back in November, Democrats reformed the filibuster rule to curb the worst abuses by Republicans. No longer would the minority be able to deny the President his appointments to certain executive and judicial positions, something the GOP has done at a record pace since President Obama took office.

Apparently courage was a temporary condition.

Christian Trejbal is a freelance editorial writer, editor and political consultant based in Portland, Ore. He wrote exclusively for The (Bend) Bulletin and The Roanoke Times before founding Opinion in a Pinch. He serves on the board of directors of the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation and is open government chairman. Follow him on Twitter @ctrejbal and facebook.

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