The National Rifle Association’s decision to oppose Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy takes the powerful lobby into new territory, expanding its campaign to a post that has no direct power to regulate guns, reports the Los Angeles Times. Murthy has called for more stringent gun laws but told the Senate he would not use the office to push for them. Still, the NRA says that, “gun owners in this country don’t have a guarantee that this surgeon general will not engage the gun issue,” said spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
The NRA move could help keep the volatile issue alive in an election year when Democrats hope it will disappear because it could hurt moderate senators in competitive races. Some analysts suggest that the NRA’s stance reflects an organization that needs such high-profile skirmishes to keep its more than 5 million members energized, and that is increasingly pushed to compete with smaller firearm groups that are farther to the right. Absolutist 2nd Amendment groups see the NRA as too conciliatory and are “nipping at their heels,” said Jim Kessler of the center-left think tank Third Way.