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A Valentine From the Swamplands

Punditfromanotherplanet’s fictional interview with Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy has been a popular item, thanks to the many good-humored readers who visit our site. Though, there’s always the occasional unhappy customer.

mad-little-baby

In a spirited discussion at another blog, Richard Rowe maintains that Dr. Vivek Murthy never said he promoted a gun ban, never said he wants to ban guns. And anyone who says otherwise–including conservative bloggers, but primarily Fox News–is a liar.

So this post is about Dr. Murthy’s controversial gun-control agenda, a discussion about fact vs. fiction in public policy debates, and a discussion about guns in general.

The disgruntled message comes from the founder of a site called “Americans Against the Tea Party“. Blogger and self-proclaimed official professional journalist (his bio says he’s written over 3 million words!) Rowe responded to my comment on his blog. I left a nutty comment on a nutty left-wing site, what did I expect? Flowers and candy? …where I eagerly expressed my (tongue-in-cheek) support for Dr. Vivek Murthy‘s candidacy for Surgeon General. Needless to say, my comments were unwelcome. Rowe followed the link back to this site, where he read the fictional interview with Dr. Murthy, and was totally not amused. It really, really displeased him. Though Mr. Rowe doesn’t share our political point of view, or appreciate our humor, he engaged in a friendly discussion, graciously taking the time to write a thoughtful, good-humored comment, in response to mine.

Nah, just kidding. His message is a typical left-wing cuckoo-bananas temper tantrum. A threatening, insulting, vindictive, chunk-blowing rant. But I liked his message anyway, and welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. I enjoyed his commentary, and would like to share some of his comments with our readers.

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Richard Rowe – March 11, 2014 at 5:27 am @ The Butcher: Oh, that is so CUTE! The anonymous blogger with a WordPress site who won’t even sign his work with his real name made a funny! I just read your “exclusive interview” with Murthy…just out of curiosity, do you have any evidence at all that you actually conducted this interview? Or did it come out of the same hole that the rest of your posts obviously do? Because I followed all the links you posted in your “interview,” and all I see is a paraphrasing of an editorial by Manny Alvarez on Fox “News.” I understand, though…it can be hard to get interviews when you won’t tell the person you’re interviewing your real name. But, if you DID get that interview…did Murthy by any chance, at any point say he wants to ban guns? Because I can’t find a single instance of him referring to a gun ban, except on right-wing websites (like yours) that never directly quote him saying so. Shame THEY couldn’t get that “exclusive interview,” huh?

Leaving aside the interview comments — obviously satire — let me address the question: “by any chance, at any point, did [Dr. Murthy] say he wants to ban guns?”

Yes, Dr. Murthy is on record advocating a proposal to ban guns.

This doesn’t come from my interview (fictional) it doesn’t come from any interview, and it’s not in the form of a quote, captured by a reporter, then published in print or online. It comes directly from Dr. Murthy’s organization, Doctors for America.

Specifically, it was a call to ban “assault weapons” and “military style” weapons, as well as an “aggressive buy-back” program to collect these types of guns. Along with other gun-control measures. The critics are correct, Dr. Murthy wants the guns. To his admirers, his gun-control activism is one of his public-service achievements. To his opponents, it makes him a target for criticism.

However, no, there’s no evidence I’m aware of that Dr. Vivek Murthy wants to ban guns, if that means “ban all guns“. (though to be fair, no one claims it was suggested by anyone in the first place) Dr. Murthy’s record, along with his colleagues, of advocating a federal gun ban is well-documented.

This is mainly a disagreement between Rowe, somebody at Fox News, and maybe some other conservative bloggers, not really with me.

But I thought it was odd that Rowe jumps to the conclusion that Murthy’s critics in the media are all “liars”. Why not just check the facts? Instead of making false accusations in bold, inaccurate headlines? Or picking fights with annoying humorists? The people that Rowe takes issue with aren’t likely to simply invent a story that Dr. Murthy wants to ban guns, if he didn’t want to ban guns. It’s too easy to prove, or disprove. If  a guy like me found conclusive evidence in about 30 seconds, we can imagine other bloggers, reporters, and media people did, too. The information is readily available.

Imagine what could be found if someone spent several days on it? We can be sure some bright-eyed researchers at the NRA have accumulated more than 30-seconds worth. I’m fairly certain what I found represents but a minor part of Dr. Murthy’s gun-control resume.

To summarize: Dr.Vivek Murthy signed an Op-Edadvocating, among other gun-control measures, a federal gun ban. In fact, the organization that Dr. Vivek Murthy founded sent a letter to Congress advocating a federal gun ban, among other gun-control measures, and a letter to Vice President Biden, advocating a federal gun ban. The gun-banning advocacy, targeting “assault weapons”, has Dr. Murthy’s seal of approval, on the site of the organization he founded, Doctors for America. So the short answer is yes, Dr. Murthy is on the record advocating a gun ban.

Here’s the relevant text:

“We want doctors to be able to ask, document and counsel patients on gun safety in their homes. This alone is not enough. We want to see a ban on assault weapons and an aggressive buy-back program for military-style weapons that are currently in circulation.”

There’s that one word, that’s a dead giveaway: Ban. Rowe couldn’t find any instance, except on “right-wing” websites like mine? Rowe should have checked Dr. Murtha’s website. This might explain why journalists, bloggers, and opinionated network news commentators are saying Dr. Murthy is in favor of banning guns. Because, well, he is in favor of banning guns. He certainly was at the time he and his colleagues sent letters to Washington D.C., laying out their proposal, calling for action.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, here’s my suggestion for a revised headline:

Fox News Reports the Facts AGAIN! Says Obama Surgeon General Appointee Wants to Ban Guns

If journalistic integrity is important to Rowe, he might consider a revision. Not my headline suggestion, of course. But something that isn’t obviously false. Unless his readers know that it wasn’t meant to be factual, but a customary example of hyperbole, or inside-joke, anti-Fox overstatement. In which case, I approve!

It’s possible that Rowe just didn’t know the specifics of Dr. Murthy’s gun-ban position.

Opponents of Dr. Murthy’s agenda understand that if Murthy and his fellow gun-control activists could have their way, there are millions of guns in circulation that they absolutely think should be banned. And if they could have their way, in their ideal world (one with no political opposition) they’d probably want all of them. Second amendment or not. Murthy’s critics are drawing attention to Murthy’s gun-control activism for legitimate reasons.

I wouldn’t blame Dr. Murthy if he wants to distance himself from his gun-control activism, tone down the rhetoric, or elude questions about it. (as he’s doing in hearings) Especially now that he’s a nominee, in the spotlight, confronting critical evaluation from opponents and critics, as well as enjoying the vigorous defense of his fans and supporters, which is normal.

The thing is, Murtha’s unwelcome policy ideas are less about things like, an outright gun ban. It’s about something more radical than that. Like the program “Docs for Glocks”, Dr. Murthy and his associates belong to a movement pushing to repeal existing laws that protect patients’ privacy rights, in order to empower physicians to ‘document’ and ‘counsel’ patients on ‘gun safety’. A terrible idea, with no hope of being enacted nationally. The word ‘counsel’ may or may not be significant, but the word ‘document” sure is. A national database, the gun-grabber’s dream. It’s a sneaky way to go about it, too, using health care as an instrument to achieve an unpopular political goal. Dr.Murthy’s true agenda — taking guns out of society, removing them from law-abiding, non-violent citizens, as well as criminals — is a goal shared by president Obama.

In spite of the best efforts by the White House to advance a strict gun-control agenda, the anti-gun campaign was thoroughly defeated. Americans rejected the emotionally-motivated legislative effort, made in the aftermath of a crisis. And Americans increasingly understand that the evidence consistently shows that gun bans fail to achieve their stated goal. If gun-control legislation has no benefit, no impact on violent crimes and murders, then whose interests do gun-control laws serve?

One institution that recently came to the conclusion that gun bans don’t work, is Harvard University. Not exactly a Koch-funded think tank. Even liberals understand that gun control legislation is ineffective at reducing crime, infringes on individual rights, and though well-intended, is not a serious solution. This helps explain why gun-control legislation has diminishing public support, while responsible gun-ownership, and liberalized gun laws are enjoying increasing public support, in state after state.

The appointment of a radical gun-control advocate for Surgeon General is an expression of Obama’s efforts to get what he wants outside the legislative process, to flip the bird to Congress, and the American people, for denying him his cherished agenda: More Chicago-style gun control. Where only the privileged and well-connected are allowed to have guns for self-defense. Or for their security guards, and bodyguards.

That said, would Dr. Murthy, as Surgeon General, likely do anything meaningful with regards to gun control? Probably not. His appointment could merely be a reward for loyalty, not an effort to bypass Congress, or install a cabinet member that will help the administration proceed with unpopular gun-control ambitions. In other words, Murthy’s critics and opponents could be overreacting. And Murthy will be a perfectly harmless, uncontroversial, mediocre Surgeon General.

But then, the critics could be right, that Murthy is A. seriously underqualified, and his appointment is ill-advised, and/or B. Still harbors deeply-held gun-control urges, and will bring ideas that will absolutely influence the office of Surgeon General.

Who knows? It makes for an entertaining debate. With hyperbole and distortion and noise on both sides.

[After a Wave of Scholarship in 20 Years, the Verdict is In: Americans Embrace Guns]

Do gun-rights advocates, libertarians, conservatives, gun-owning liberals, Democrats, and annoying bloggers like me have legitimate reasons to be guarded about Murtha’s experience, and policy goals? Absolutely. Rowe doesn’t have to like it. Not liking it doesn’t make the concerns any less legitimate.

More in the next chapter…

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