Article published Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at Fox News.

Surgeon General nomination forces Senate Democrats to hide gun views

By John R. Lott, Jr.

When will some Democrats who describe themselves as “pro-gun” realize that they aren't fooling anyone?

Here's their latest deception. President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to be surgeon general is in trouble, because the National Rifle Association decided that it was going to “score” the vote – that is, let its members know which senators voted for someone they believe is a threat to people being able to own guns for self-defense.

The New York Times reported late Friday: “Three Democratic Senate aides with knowledge of where members stood on the nomination said Friday that enough Democrats could oppose Dr. Murthy that he would most likely fail to be confirmed if a vote were held soon.”

Not wanting to put Democratic senators from conservative states in a difficult position, word started leaking out late Monday that Democrats want to delay the vote until after the midterm elections in November.

Democrats apparently believe that, with their re-election behind them, they will then be safe to vote to confirm Murthy.

Voters have seen these games by “pro-gun” Democrats before. In 2009, when the Senate voted on states recognizing other states’ concealed handgun permits, just as states recognize other states’ driver’s licenses, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) voted against the measure until it was clear that there were sufficient votes to kill it.

The Washington Post described Pryor’s actions this way: “[Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)] gave Pryor a nod, and the Arkansan -- reassured that his vote was not needed to defeat the proposal -- changed his vote to an ‘aye.’”

Also in 2009, NPR reported how “pro-gun” Senate Democrats privately complained about being forced to vote for bills ranging from letting law-abiding visitors carry legal firearms into national parks to forbidding the District of Columbia from restricting gun ownership.

Earlier this year, four “pro-gun” Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security Committee voted against a Rand Paul amendment ending the gun-free zones in post offices. In that case, Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Ark.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) joined Pryor.

By contrast, all the Republicans voted to support ending gun-free zones at post offices and all the Democrats voted to keep them. Even John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has worked with gun control groups on gun show regulations and gunlocks, voted to finally end these gun-free zones.

In Murthy’s case, there are good reasons why the NRA strongly opposes his nomination. He has advocated that physicians question parents about their gun ownership and counsel them not to own guns or always to store them locked up.

He has even gone so far as to advocate “documenting gun ownership” by patients.

If physicians record this information and report it via electronic medical records to the government, it is simply another way of registering guns.

If Murthy really worried about children's safety, his time would be better spent advocating that doctors ask patients about other, greater dangers lurking around the children’s and their playmates' homes: a swimming pool, chemicals and medications, bathtubs, water buckets, bicycles, cars and items that can cause suffocation.

Accidental gun deaths involving children are especially horrible, but they are fortunately rare. Take the last five years for which the Centers for Disease Control data are available, 2006 to 2010.

On average there were 33 accidental gun deaths per year for children under 10. Including children under 15 raises the number to 58.

Research done on cases before the CDC privacy restrictions found that most cases for those under 10 involved adults firing the gun, not children getting a hold of their parent's guns.

The real risk factor isn't whether people residing in these homes own guns, but whether violent felons live there.

Over the same five years for children under 15, accidental suffocations alone averaged 1,162 deaths per year; drownings 736; 376 children died from fires; 106 died from poisonings; 84 died from accidents while riding bicycles. For children under age 5, 70 a year drown in bathtubs.

Even worse, states that have mandated that people lock up their guns didn’t see a reduction in accidental gun deaths or suicides for children or teenagers. Instead, as guns became less accessible for self-defense, criminals became more emboldened to attack people in their homes and their crimes were more successful.

“Pro-gun” Democratic Senators should have the courage of their convictions.

Putting off Murthy’s confirmation vote until after the 2014 midterm elections should simply be taken as evidence that some of these “pro-gun” Democrats will still vote to confirm him.

John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the recently released “At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge?”

Home (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

Academic papers:

Social Science Research Network

Book Reviews:

For a list of book reviews on The Bias Against Guns, click here.

List of my Op-eds

Posts by topic

Appalachian law school attack

Baghdad murder rate

Arming Pilots

Fraudulent website pretending to be run by me

The Merced Pitchfork Killings and Vin Suprynowicz's quote

Ayres and Donohue

Stanford Law Review

Mother Jones article


Craig Newmark

Eric Rasmusen

William Sjostrom

Dr. T's

Interview with National Review Online

Lyonette Louis-Jacques's page on Firearms Regulation Worldwide

The End of Myth: An Interview with Dr. John Lott

Cold Comfort, Economist John Lott discusses the benefits of guns--and the hazards of pointing them out.

An interview with John R. Lott, Jr. author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws

Some data not found at

Updated Media Analysis of Appalachian Law School Attack

Since the first news search was done additional news stories have been added to Nexis:

There are thus now 218 unique stories, and a total of 294 stories counting duplicates (the stories in yellow were duplicates): Excel file for general overview and specific stories. Explicit mentions of defensive gun use increase from 2 to 3 now.

Journal of Legal Studies paper on spoiled ballots during the 2000 Presidential Election

Data set from USA Today, STATA 7.0 data set

"Do" File for some of the basic regressions from the paper