Stanford medical professor withdraws Pentagon health chief nomination after gun control comments

Alyssa Rege - Print  | 

Dean Winslow, MD, a professor of hospital medicine at Stanford (Calif.) Medical Center and a retired Air Force colonel, withdrew his nomination to become the U.S. Department of Defense's chief health official last month following his remarks during a November Senate hearing criticizing U.S. civilians' access to assault weapons, The Stanford Daily reports.

President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Winslow to serve as the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs for the military health system. A hearing on his nomination took place before the U.S Senate Committee on Armed Services in early November, less than 48 hours after a former U.S. Air Force member killed 26 people in a mass shooting outside a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Nov. 5.

During the hearing, committee members asked Dr. Winslow about the shooter's military discharge status, to which he responded, in part, by stating, "how insane it is that, in the United States of America, a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle, like an AR-15," according to the report.

The committee placed his confirmation on hold for several weeks, leading Dr. Winslow to ultimately withdraw his name from consideration in mid-December. He detailed his decision in an op-ed for The Washington Post Dec. 20, claiming his comments on gun control constituted the deciding factor for the committee.

In the op-ed, Dr. Winslow said he felt "compelled" to bring the issue of civilian access to assault weapons to the Senate's attention because of its importance as a public health issue. Dr. Winslow also said he wanted to note that other factors, besides the shooter's discharge status from the U.S. Air Force, all contributed to the decision to commit the mass shooting.

"I'm very disappointed that I won't be able to serve [in the position]," Dr. Winslow told The Stanford Daily. "The fact is I stand by what I said at the hearing. … It's a sad comment that unequivocal, unrestricted support of ownership of any type of a weapon has almost become a litmus test for serving in government."

To access The Stanford Daily report, click here.

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