The NRA Was Right to Fear Vivek Murthy

Gun Rights

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has kept a fairly low profile since assuming the job in 2014, but one element from his confirmation hearings now appears to have been worth keeping in mind. The most strident opposition to Murthy’s appointment came from the National Rifle Association, which was furious at him for making sense about the epidemic of gun violence in America. On Tuesday, Murthy stepped out and stepped up and demonstrated that the NRA had sized him up accurately. From The Washington Post:

The surgeon general’s advisory marked the first time the nation’s leading voice on public health—the same office that in the 1960s highlighted the lethal consequences of cigarette smoking—had issued an urgent pronouncement on deaths related to firearms. The 39-page advisory underscores the significant physical and mental toll of gun violence on communities nationwide. Overall, deaths caused by guns rose to a three-decade high in 2021, driven by increases in homicides and suicides, the advisory says. In 2022, more than half of all gun deaths were from suicide, while 40 percent of firearms deaths were homicides.

“I want people to understand the full impact of firearm violence in our country, and I want them to see it as a public health issue,” Murthy said in an interview. “I know it’s been polarizing, and I know it’s been politicized, but if we can see it as a public health issue, we can come together and implement a public health solution.”

The reaction from the gun fondlers was predictable, if beside the point.

“This is an extension of the Biden Administration’s war on law-abiding gun owners. America has a crime problem caused by criminals,” Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement. “The reluctance to prosecute and punish criminals on the part of President Biden and many of his allies is the primary cause of that. That’s a simple fact.”

None of that Newsmax swill addresses Murthy’s undeniable contention that gun violence is a public-health issue. His report illustrates the wide-ranging consequences for American society from every act of gun violence.

Tuesday’s report on gun violence highlights the effect of mass shooting deaths, which account for about 1 percent of all gun-related deaths, but the frequency of mass shooting incidents is increasing. Mass homicide events, which the advisory defines as four or more victims in addition to the perpetrator, affect a higher proportion of women, White people and children compared with other homicides. The surgeon general’s advisory says high-schoolers exposed to campus shootings are 20 percent more likely to steer clear of school because of safety concerns compared with peers not exposed to shootings. “I remember meeting with a group of high school students telling me that when they go for walks in their neighborhood, they hear gunshots all the time, and it makes them worry about walking in their own neighborhoods,” Murthy said.

If you’re keeping score at home, over the weekend two police officers were shot, one of them fatally. Someone opened fire at a crowded party in Alabama. Ten people were wounded in downtown Columbus, Ohio. A drive-by killed a woman and wounded six other people in Dayton. Six more people were wounded in Rochester, New York. A fight in St. Louis escalated into gunplay that resulted in one death and five wounded. And the weekend was kicked off with a mass shooting at a grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas, that claimed four lives.

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I think Vivek Murthy has a case.

Headshot of Charles P. Pierce

Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. 

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