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Sick and Tired: Media Seeks to Blame Ebola on NRA's Opposition to Anti-Gun Nominee

Friday, January 2, 2015

Over the years, gun control supporters and their allies in the media have attempted to blame NRA for a variety of the nation’s problems. A recent line of attack attempting to tie NRA to the Ebola outbreak, however, shows NRA’s critics sinking to a new level of buffoonery.

The claim is that NRA’s opposition to Barack Obama’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General has deprived Americans of an effective response to the outbreak and an authoritative voice for reliable information on the disease. An early version of the argument appeared in an Oct. 2 MSNBC web article with the laughable title, “How the NRA is making the Ebola crisis worse.” Since then, this theme has been uncritically rehashed by a wide swath of the anti-gun press, from nationally known talking heads to local opinion columnists. To state the obvious, NRA’s opposition to Murthy’s nomination is grounded in his established anti-gun activism, outlined in a Feb. 26 letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NEV., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.

The letter detailed Murthy’s history of partisan activism as a co-founder of Doctors for Obama, which later morphed into Doctors for America. The group was originally founded to support Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Following Obama’s victory, the organization exploited the trust most Americans have in their doctors to push the president’s policy agenda, including on gun control.

In January 2013, the group sent letters, signed by Murthy himself, to Congress and Vice President Joe Biden, outlining their support for a variety of extreme gun control measures. These included a ban on popular semi-automatic firearms and their ammunition, firearm owner licensing, mandatory waiting periods of at least 48 hours and limits on the purchase of ammunition. Allowing a person with these publicly stated positions to guide the nation’s public health apparatus (which gun control supporters have long sought to exploit) would have been a disaster for our nation’s 100 million gun owners.

Murthy is not just a garden variety gun control activist, but one who sees “medicine” and gun control as inextricably tied. He specifically advocated for reinstating taxpayer-funded “firearms injury and death prevention research” through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health. Congress determined that such research was so politicized and useless in the 1990s that it has curbed it ever since with funding restrictions. Murthy also insisted on the repeal of NRA-supported protections in Obamacare that prohibit its use for compiling databases on gun ownership through patients’ interactions with their doctors and insurance companies.

In addition, the 37-year-old Murthy only finished his medical residency in 2006. According to former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, while Murthy may have “great potential,” he’d need another 20 years of practice before he’d “merit” the title of America’s top doctor. Indeed, Murthy’s own comments suggest his formative attitude on guns was not shaped strictly by long immersion in science. An article in the U.K. Daily Mail noted that Murthy—as a high school valedictorian—indicated his views on “kids and violence” and “society’s preoccupation with firearms” were influenced by the “fiery gun battles” in Saturday morning cartoons.

Needless to say, Ebola itself is no joking matter. Yet the nomination of Murthy merely repeats the mistake of using assets of the U.S. government meant to serve the public through unbiased science to create yet another political soapbox. We can’t say for sure the nation would be better prepared to face Ebola if the CDC had stuck to studying real pathogens, rather than trying to misapply that label to guns, but the potential consequences of putting politics first loom large in the face of a real viral outbreak.

Ironically, the White House itself rebutted the media narrative that NRA is suppressing Murthy’s participation in the Ebola response by choosing Ronald Klain, an attorney and former chief of staff to the vice president, as the so-called “Ebola Czar.” Although Senate confirmation was not required, there’s no indication that Murthy was even considered.

Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

Former NRA-ILA Executive Director

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Chris W. Cox served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, until 2019. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversaw eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

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NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.