Nation

Surgeon general stands by comments on gun violence

Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that the backlash from his gun-control statement was disappointing but not a surprise.
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press/File 2014
Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that the backlash from his gun-control statement was disappointing but not a surprise.

SAN FRANCISCO — The nation’s chief doctor said he doesn’t regret saying gun violence is a public health issue, calling his difficult confirmation process a consequence of speaking out.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a former physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and instructor at Harvard Medical School, said Saturday that the backlash from his gun-control statement was disappointing but not a surprise.

He was confirmed last year in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association, which was a rare defeat for the powerful gun lobby.

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Murthy said the challenging process showed him the importance of community, including those from the medical, public health, high-tech, and Asian-American communities who rallied in support of him. He also credited his fiancee, Alice Chen, for helping him cope.

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The doctor said he still believes gun violence is a preventable health problem, comparing it to seatbelts and swimming pool safety.

Murthy was speaking at the Asian American Journalists Association convention gala in San Francisco.

Murthy, 38, was confirmed by the Senate in December on a vote of 51 to 43. The vote was delayed for about a year because of concerns about his inexperience and his support of gun-control measures and the president’s health care law

The NRA called him a “serious threat to the rights of gun owners,” citing his 2012 tweet: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”