The Surgeon General and the NRA: Let A Doctor Do Their Job

Like many other of President Obama’s nominations, Dr. Vivek Murthy faces intense scrutiny and almost certain failure in his quest to become Surgeon General. By all accounts, Dr. Murthy is extremely qualified to hold such a lofty position but one of his stances continues to stall his nomination. Murthy supports gun safety laws. Nothing radical, in fact, his position is endorsed by the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, and National Physicians Alliance.

This has drawn the ire of the National Rifle Association and, since it displeases the gun lobby, it must mean it’s not good for America. Republican support is hard enough, but now, Democrats are pulling their votes from Murthy to avoid the NRA’s vengeful wrath. It’s normal to be afraid of someone pointing a gun at you while shoving the constitution in your face, but this can’t be the only tactic the NRA uses to get their points across.

Murthy’s common sense views on gun safety and regulations should not exclude him from a position because a pro-gun group says so. How is the NRA at all qualified to preach about safety? For all those clutching to the 2nd amendment, this is barely a constitutional issue. It is, however, one of public safety and medical awareness.

Dr. Murthy isn’t calling for the confiscation of weapons, he is simply focusing on smarter solutions to reduce gun violence. Who could, with a conscious, vote for measures that ensure gun violence continues at current levels? A majority of elected officials, that’s who.

Guns ARE a Problem:

Somehow national tragedies like the numerous school shootings of the past decade, do very little to enact change in gun regulations. In reality, the NRA uses these instances to strengthen its views on gun freedom, which is a remarkably amazing, albeit heinous, feat. Just look at the facts of the matter:

According to the Center for Disease Control 32,163 people died from firearms in 2011. That combines homicides, suicides, accidents and the number has hovered around thirty thousand since 2005. Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 335,609 people died from guns – more than the populations of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinatti, and Newark. – About 60,000 people suffer nonfatal injuries from gunshots each year.

Guns are projected to become the leading cause of death for people between ages 15 and 24 in 2015.

As a practitioner of medicine who swore an oath to help people live long and healthy lives, how could Dr. Murthy, in good conscious, avoid such an issue? Guns are not the number one cause of death in America, but no cause is as ignored and politically toxic. Let’s take a look at other major causes of death and see how the country reacts to those.

Cure Everything, No Matter How Political:

Here are the CDC’s leading causes of death in 2010. While that was four years ago, no major breakthroughs have lessened these forms of fatalities and most only continue to rise:

  1. Heart disease: 597,689
  2. Cancer: 574,743
  3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
  4. Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
  5. Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
  6. Alzheimer’s disease: 83,494
  7. Diabetes: 69,071
  8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
  9. Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
  10. Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364

Looks like gun deaths don’t crack the top 10 but in 2010 they accounted for 31,672 deaths which means they’re just on the cusp.

The NRA and their constituents constantly parade facts that gun deaths aren’t rising and numbers regarding their harm are misleading, which does not change the medical risks associated with guns. More gun deaths are performed by gangs and violent criminals than by law abiding gun owners but that is immaterial when you look at the causes of death in America. It is absolutely necessary that the Surgeon General have opinions and hopefully solutions on a major cause of death in the country they are sworn to protect.

America spends billions each year to try and lessen the amount of people dying by the above mentioned maladies. In 2010 over $107 billion was spent on heart related issues and over $87 billion on cancer research and treatment. Diabetes receives over $50 billion and even Asthma related illnesses receive $64 billion. How much does the government spend on combating death by gun?

It’s hard to get a detailed number since there are very few specific things the government spends money on directly related to gun regulation. But in January of this year, President Obama put forth a gun regulation safety package worth $4.5 billion. This package allows more spending on police officers, more funds for states who administer background checks, money for CDC data gathering missions, and a large portion to have more guidance counselors in schools. These are all great initiatives but, when compared to others, it’s a drop in the bucket. Diabetes has about double the amount of fatalities than guns do, but receives over 10 times more funding than this new package. This medically irresponsible feat is accomplished mostly in part by the NRA’s lobbying efforts.

In 2011, anti-gun regulation groups outspent pro-gun control groups 19-1. It is a medical necessity that harm and deaths at the hands of guns and those that wield them are widely discussed in the medical community and taken seriously by politicians. We cannot keep ignoring a vital issue in human health and wellbeing.

After all, is this about health? Guns? Politics? The Obama agenda? Either way the country is worse off if Dr. Murthy is denied.

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