A leading American medical journal has lashed out at US lawmakers for being influenced by the powerful gun lobby to block the nomination of Indian-American Vivek Murthy for the post of US Surgeon-General, describing the move as a new form of “political blackmail.”

“The critical question is this: Should a special-interest organisation like National Rifle Association (NRA) have veto power over the appointment of the nation’s top doctor? The very idea is unacceptable,” the New England Medical Journal said in its latest issue.

Mr. Murthy, 36, if confirmed by the US Senate, would be the first Indian-American and the youngest-ever to occupy the top position.

In its editorial, the journal alleged that 10 Senate Democrats were apparently prepared to vote against Mr. Murthy’s confirmation because of his personal views on gun control.

“It is of great concern to us and to many other members of the healthcare community that Mr. Murthy’s nomination is in jeopardy because of NRA opposition,” the journal said.

“The NRA opposes Mr. Murthy solely on the grounds that he has advocated reasonable and mainstream forms of gun regulation, including an assault weapons ban, a limit on ammunition sales, and required safety training. Given that there are more than 30,000 firearm deaths in the US each year, Mr. Murthy’s views on potential safeguards are unsurprising,” the editorial said.

This is the first time the NRA has flexed its political muscle over the appointment of a surgeon-general. The NRA has taken this action even though the surgeon-general has no authority over firearm regulation.

Mr. Murthy has already said in his testimony before the Senate HELP Committee that if confirmed, his principal focus will be on the national problem of obesity prevention not firearm policy, it said.

“Still, 10 Senate Democrats are apparently prepared to vote against Mr. Murthy’s confirmation because of his personal views on firearms — a demonstration of just how much political power our legislators have ceded to the NRA.

“By obstructing the President’s nomination of Vivek Murthy as surgeon-general, the NRA is taking its single-issue political blackmail to a new level,” the journal alleged.

“With the record of past surgeons-general as their guide, Senators should do what is right for the health of the country by confronting the NRA and voting their own conscience. Mr. Murthy is an accomplished physician, policymaker, leader and entrepreneur. He deserves the President’s continued backing and should be confirmed,” it said.

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