At a hearing Tuesday for five of President Trump’s nominees at the Department of Health and Human Services, a long contentious issue briefly flared: the public health threat posed by gun violence.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked Dr. Jerome Adams, Trump’s nominee for surgeon general, what the surgeon general can do to stem gun violence. It was a notable moment because Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general, saw his confirmation delayed for a year because of his support for gun-control laws.
In response, Adams, the Indiana health commissioner, sought to separate gun violence from guns themselves.
“Guns and gun owners aren’t inherently a public health problem, but the violence that results absolutely is,” he said, likening the difference to car crashes being a public health issue, even if cars themselves are not.
Adams, who said he is a gun owner, also noted that he regularly helps treat gunshot victims at Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis and raised the issue of suicides caused by guns.
The exchange was short, as Murphy ran out of time for his questions, but Adams’s response did not sit well with the senator. “It’s a little bit deeper than the problem you suggested,” Murphy said, citing evidence of an association between the availability of guns and the likelihood of a crime being committed with a gun.
Still, the hearing overall was mostly cordial, with the nominees and senators discussing how they can address the opioid crisis, a lack of mental health treatment, and emergency preparedness. Democratic senators also used the hearing to get the nominees to push back on some statements from Trump and other administration officials related to vaccines and medication-assisted treatment that were not based on evidence.