Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership Slams Surgeon General's Anti-Gun Activism

Townhall Media

Dr. Robert Young, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, says Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's call to treat "gun violence" as a public health crisis is pure politics, but it's also part of a decades-long effort on the part of gun control activists to use the healthcare industry to push their agenda. 


"What took him so long?" 

That was Young's first reaction to Murthy's announcement on Tuesday. The head of DRGO says Murthy's been on his radar for well over a decade, back to the days when Murthy was heading up Doctors for America/Doctors for Obama.

"Doctors for Obama was vehemently anti-gun," Young reminded Bearing Arms, noting that even back then the group was calling gun violence a "public health epidemic". So why did Murthy wait until his second go-round as Surgeon General to use his bully pulpit and call on lawmakers to adopt gun bans, "universal" background checks, "red flag" laws, and more? 

He's been Surgeon General now for three years and not a peep out of him about this. Suddenly when, I suspect, the Biden campaign is starting to realize it has to pull out of all of their stops to get their recliner-bound candidate re-elected, it's time to make an issue of this and see if you can stir up the base this way. 

Even the Washington Post can't ignore the politics behind Murthy's proclamation. Columnist Philip Bump pointed out that drug overdoses rates are more than twice as high as the number of gun-involved deaths in the U.S., and back in 2017 deaths from opioids were also declared a public health emergency. 

That year, the CDC recorded three overdose deaths for every two gun deaths in the United States, up from a 1 to 1 ratio six years before. In 2022, there were two opioid deaths for every gun death. Preliminary 2023 data released by the CDC indicates that the number of gun deaths in the United States didn’t increase that year but instead fell by 5 percent. That would be a steeper rate of decline than the 3 percent drop in overdose deaths recorded over the same period. There are still tens of thousands of gun deaths a year. And of course, there is still a political motivation to turn the nation’s attention to those deaths.


Young says that the push to reframe the gun control debate as a matter of public health has been going on for a long time. Thirty years ago, for instance, Dr. Mark Rosenberg was serving as the head of the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control when he stated that "We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes. It used to be that smoking was a glamour symbol, cool, sexy, macho. Now it is dirty, deadly and banned." 

The following year, then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder pointed to anti-smoking campaigns and said the same should be done for firearms. 

"We need to change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people. Make it something that's not cool, that's not acceptable. It's not hip to carry a gun anymore. Just like we changed our attitude about cigarettes." 

As Young says, treating guns like tobacco is at the heart of the effort to treat gun violence as a public health issue. But Young says its malpractice to treat the two issues similarly. 

It was absolutely necessary with cigarettes. Cigarettes were way too cool up through the 1960s, because all they do really is give you oral gratification, maintain a nicotine addiction, and then kill you. And the first two aren't worth being killed by it later. A gun doesn't do anything. So this is a contiuum, and this is when DRGO was founded; recognizing this problem very early on. And it's continued ever since, treating guns as the issue when it's not the issue. We need to treat illegal gun ownership by criminals and their misuse, and we need to treat all of our millions of despairing, often suicidal people, who will turn to whatever plan they can find to end their lives if we can't intervene. 


What impact does Young think Murthy's call to action will have? Not much, at least legislatively. But then, that's not the motivation for Murthy's comments. Murthy's trying help Joe Biden as he desperately tries to rally his base to show up at the polls on Election Day, and using his position to push for gun control is more about getting Democrats to vote than anything else. 

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