Medical Journal: NRA Committing 'Blackmail'

Image: Medical Journal: NRA Committing 'Blackmail' Vivek Murthy

Thursday, 20 Mar 2014 10:06 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The National Rifle Association is committing "political blackmail" to block the approval of Vivek Murthy as surgeon general over his views on gun control, say four of the top editors of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Murthy, who currently practices medicine at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, has said his focus as surgeon general would be on obesity, not guns, NBC News reported.

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However, because Murthy has spoken out in favor of mandatory gun safety training and banning assault weapons, the NRA opposes his nomination, Journal Editor-in-Chief  Jeffrey Drazen, Executive Editor Gregory Curfman, Managing Editor Stephen Morrissey, and Perspective Editor Debra Malina wrote in an editorial.

Lawmakers have given in to pressure from the NRA, according to the editorial, and hearings on Murthy's nomination are now on hold after 10 Senate Democrats said they would likely vote against his nomination.

A White House spokesman told NBC that it is reconsidering its strategy on the nomination, but President Barack Obama hasn't given up on Murthy yet.

The NRA also isn't likely to back down. Executive Director Chris Cox, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. in late February, said the NRA "strongly opposes" Murthy's nomination because his "record of political activism in support of radical gun control measures" raises concerns about his ability to be objective when it comes to the issues concerning the nation's gun owners.

Further, Cox said that Murthy is likely to use the office to further his stance on gun control.

He wrote that in 2008, Murthy founded "Doctors for Obama" to back Obama's presidential campaign. A year, later the organization's name was changed to "Doctors for America," and Murthy, as its president, used the position to push for gun control laws, including pushing lawmakers to approve changes, Cox wrote.

The Journal editors, in the editorial, said it's of "great concern" that the nomination is in jeopardy over the NRA's opposition, which is based on the grounds that he has "advocated reasonable and mainstream forms of gun regulation."

His views are "unsurprising," the editors said, because there are more than 30,000 deaths from firearms in the United States each year.

The opposition to Murthy marks the first time the NRA has "flexed its political muscle" over a surgeon general's appointment, according to the editorial. The NRA has taken the action even though the surgeon general's office has no authority over firearm regulations, and Murthy has confirmed he'll concentrate on obesity prevention, not firearms, if confirmed, the Journal editors wrote.

"Still, 10 Senate Democrats are apparently prepared to vote against Murthy's confirmation because of his personal views on firearms — a demonstration of just how much political power our legislators have ceded to the NRA," the editors wrote. "Should a special-interest organization like the NRA have veto power over the appointment of the nation's top doctor? The very idea is unacceptable...the NRA is taking its single-issue political blackmail to a new level."

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