While President Donald Trump doesn’t think guns are to blame for the problem of recurrent mass shootings in the United States, his nominee for assistant secretary of defense for health affairs believes it is “insane” that civilians can purchase high-powered semi-automatic guns.
During a confirmation hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, Dr. Dean Winslow broke with his boss’ line on guns, telling the panel how nonsensical it is for people to be able to purchase semi-automatic rifles like the one used by the shooter at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“I may get in trouble with other members of the committee,” Winslow said,” [But I’d also like to say] how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semi-automatic assault rifle like an AR-15.”
Shortly after he made the statement, an unidentified senator cut him off before he could elaborate, interjecting, “I don’t think that’s in your area of responsibility or expertise.”
Dr. Winslow is a former U.S. Air Force colonel who served two tours in Afghanistan and four tours in Iraq after 9/11. He went on to serve as the vice chair of medicine at Stanford University.
Law enforcement officials say the shooter in Texas used a Ruger AR-556, a variant of the AR-15. Similar semi-automatic rifles were also used to carry out mass shootings at a country music event in Las Vegas last month, an Orlando nightclub last year, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Winslow offered the line in response to a question about whether the Sutherland Springs shooter should have been dishonorably discharged from the military, instead of merely receiving a “bad conduct discharge” after he was convicted of domestic violence.
The former U.S. Air Force colonel didn’t offer a direct response, instead choosing to highlight the Air Force’s failure to properly record the shooter’s domestic violence conviction in a federal database, one that would have otherwise prevented him from buying the gun.
Winslow expressed his surprise that the Air Force hadn’t designed a better system for reporting. “The last thing you want is to engineer it so a single point of failure results in such a tragic outcome,” he said.