Sunday, January 25, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Should gun policy halt President Obama’s choice for surgeon general?

The National Rifle Association is flexing its political muscle again – this time in opposition to President Obama’s nominee to be Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. Why? Murthy believes that guns are a health issue, and has advocated gun safety measures like an assault weapons ban, mandatory safety training, and limits on ammunition.

Is gun usage a health issue? Could Murthy threaten gun rights? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, debate the issue.

Ben Boychuk

Gun ownership isn’t a disease. It’s a constitutional right.

Calling crime a disease sounds like the stuff of a bad Sylvester Stallone movie, but it’s closer to reality than people might think. Criminologists often speak the language of “epidemiology” – a medical science that looks at the occurrence, spread and possible control of disease.

But to describe guns and gun ownership as a “health care issue” isn’t science or medicine. It’s simply politics.

Traditionally, authorities respond “public health threats” through quarantines and other measures designed to contain the problem. If guns were a threat to public health, what would quarantine look like? Something like a ban, most likely.

Vivek Murthy’s credentials as a physician are certainly impressive: admitted to Harvard at 16, graduate of Yale medical school, founder of a nonprofit focused on AIDS research and treatment, Harvard med school professor.

But when it comes to politics and public policy, Dr. Murthy’s ideas aren’t especially different from those of a garden-variety liberal newspaper columnist – or most Harvard professors, come to think of it.

President Obama’s nomination of Murthy as Surgeon General follows his 2013 executive order empowering the Centers for Disease Control to resume its controversial research on guns and violence.

But Congress cut the CDC’s gun research budget nearly 20 years ago for good reason. Researchers were engaged in what could be charitably described as “political science.” The CDC’s former director of gun research once told the Washington Post his goal was to foster a public perception of guns as “dirty, deadly – and banned.”

“Government-funded gun research was openly biased in the 1990s,” explained Dr. Timothy Wheeler, a retired surgeon and director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of the Second Amendment Foundation.

Researchers, Wheeler wrote last year at National Review Online, “unabashedly supported gun bans, used CDC funds to advocate strict gun control, and poured millions of taxpayer dollars into funding ‘research’ that was in fact advocacy – thinly disguised medical-journal hit pieces against gun ownership.”

Murthy is very much of that tradition, masking political advocacy as straightforward public health advice. As Surgeon General, Murthy would be overseeing the CDC. He may be a good and compassionate doctor, but he shouldn’t be directing public policy.

Joel Mathis

Gun ownership is a constitutional right – and also a potent threat to public health. If public research about firearms has been “anti-gun,” it’s probably because reality itself is anti-gun. And as the controversy over Dr. Vivek Murthy shows, the NRA will choose guns over reality every time.

Reality: Guns are not a benign tool. When used as designed, they injure and kill. That is their only purpose. Period. In that sense, guns are little different from rat poison, though rat poison is usually sold with a warning attached.

Reality: Guns do an efficient job of working as designed, at least in the United States. There are roughly 30,000 gun-related homicides and suicides a year in the country.

Reality: In 2010 nearly two-thirds of those deaths – more than 19,000 fatalities – were suicides. The FBI that same year recorded just 230 justifiable homicides, suggesting that self-obliteration is a much, much more common use of firearms in this country than self-defense. Generally, we try to limit access to easy self-harm – in San Francisco, for example, they’re about to build a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Reality: Research has shown that keeping a gun in the home actually increases one’s chance of death, usually at the hands of a family member or “intimate acquaintance.”

Despite all that, it’s possible that there are good, constructive reasons to possess a gun. (Just as there are good, constructive reasons to own rat poison.) It’s just that the NRA chokes off a fair conversation (and even scientific) at every opportunity, and construes even common-sense restrictions – like requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns – as “anti-gun” legislation instead of “pro-responsible gun ownership.” And it punishes legislators accordingly.

Silencing critics and stifling research doesn’t indicate that the NRA is very confident reality will bear out its view of the world. It’s an elevation of ideology over the plain facts. Too bad the facts (and their advocates) are losing.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine. Website: www.facebook.com/benandjoel.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Ze'ev WurmanMarch 28, 2014 - 3:21 pm

    Joel Mathis writes "When used as designed, they injure and kill. That is their only purpose." Wrong. He conveniently forgets deterrence as one of their purposes. He brings in suicide committed with guns as a reason to ban them.After banning guns, will he also ban bridges, high-rise buildings, and trains? A lot of people use them for suicide too. More will after banning guns, or after construction of that anti-suicide barrier on the Golden Gate. But Mathis doesn't need to convince me. He can simply choose the path offered to him over two hundred years ago -- convince enough people to pass a constitutional amendment.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The Framers Knew What They Were DoingMarch 28, 2014 - 4:17 pm

    Why doesn't the President nominate a surgeon who is interested in surgery to be the surgeon general? Why must the President nominate a sop-called doctor who is nothing but a political operative? Madness!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Nursing students take next step in higher education

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Friend seeks justice for 1982 Vacaville homicide victim

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 12 Comments | Gallery

 
Solano GOP welcomes address from King niece

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A1, 6 Comments | Gallery

 
Biggest Little Car Show returns for 31st year

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Safety Net Summit set in Fairfield downtown

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

Wine, chocolate pairing comes to downtown Benicia

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Local gas prices dip below $2 a gallon

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Be heart smart all year long

By Gerald Bourne, MD | From Page: C4

Kindergarten Readiness Roundup enlightens parents

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Weather for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Crews respond to residential fire

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
CHP seeks witnesses to I-80 crash

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
City seeks input on downtown plan

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | From Page: B7, 2 Comments

Fairfield police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Privatized housing tenants to feel BAH pinch

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 22, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Airman with Fairfield tie completes training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
It’s a hoot hanging out with owls at this Tokyo cafe

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

Man searching by plane finds body of missing son off Mexico

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Kia recalling nearly 87,000 Fortes because of fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Elon Musk’s SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
California’s public-worker payroll increased post-recession

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Avian flu confirmed in commercial turkey flock in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Boy, 13, arrested in fatal stabbing near Los Angeles school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Abortion opponents express renewed hope at SF rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
School: Sea otter conceived in wild is 1st born in captivity

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Company seeks rights to names of iconic Grand Canyon lodges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Expert says King Tut mask can be restored after epoxy used

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Obama to cut short India trip to pay call on Saudi Arabia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
1st attempt to lift fuselage of crashed AirAsia plane fails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Tens of thousands protest after president resigns in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Thousands march against socialist president in Venezuela

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

Plea for return of stolen statue

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Not all police are bad

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 10 Comments

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sound off for Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8, 1 Comment

 
 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

The gift of a new beginning

By Dalia Adams | From Page: C3, 1 Comment

 
Mennonite group to build houses in tornado-damaged town

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Yearbooks bring Jewish, Catholic groups together

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscope Jan. 25, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

My dad can’t get over the bad first impression of my boyfriend

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Mariel Hemingway working on memoir and young adult novel

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jonathan Franzen to appear at BookExpo America

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

Thompson’s record 3rd quarter leads Warriors past Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Belichick on deflated balls: ‘We try to do everything right’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 4 Comments | Gallery

25 years of trying to get it right

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Sharapova, Bouchard into quarterfinals at Australian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

2 Williams sisters, 2 Madisons into 4th round at Aussie Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks mourned in sports world and beyond

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

AP Interview: Selig says MLB could expand internationally

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Could Super Bowl be Lynch’s finale in Seattle?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sherman, Seahawks take the trash-talk lead over Patriots

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s surgically repaired hip on mend

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Buckeyes celebrate their title at Ohio Stadium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Carroll, Belichick excelled after failing the first time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Luck-led Team Carter vs. Romo-lead Team Irvin in Pro Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
AP Explains: The Pro Bowl, unlike any other All-Star game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Abdullah leads North to 34-13 win over South in Senior Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
As Brady, Gronk know, pre-Super Bowl injury talk always big

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Upstart wins $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Mischief Clem wins California Cup Derby in photo finish

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

World Cup of Hockey tournament set for 2016

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Hometown report: Bowling

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

Ashley Wagner wins 3rd US title with record-setting scores

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Weber’s 108.5-mph blast gives him hardest shot at NHL skills

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Jimenez, Mediate share lead in Champions Tour opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Grace wins Qatar Masters by 1 stroke

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Matt Kuchar stumbles in, gives away Humana Challenge lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
For streaking Atlanta Hawks, it’s all about the balance

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Sports on TV for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B5

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

Anheuser-Busch to buy craft beer company

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Higher standard deduction, other breaks for older taxpayers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Booking a trip to the ER on your smartphone? It’s a breeze

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Recalls this week: cleaners, fitness machines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tiny Cokes: Less guilt means more money for makers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
First Look: Apple’s HomeKit could help smarten up your home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

.

Obituaries

Sheila Margery (Smith) Luxenberg

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics