clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A top Trump Pentagon nominee thinks it’s “insane” that civilians can buy assault rifles

Weirdly, he disagrees with the person trying to give him a job.

Dr. Dean Winslow.
Screenshot of Senate Armed Services Committee testimony feed

One of President Donald Trump’s nominees for a top Pentagon job just said he thinks it’s “insane” that civilians can buy assault rifles — just like the shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, was able to do.

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say 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,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

Winslow didn’t directly answer the question. He first mentioned the Air Force’s failure to alert federal authorities that Kelley was convicted of a crime, which might’ve barred him from purchasing the military-style rifle he used to kill 26 people at a church on Sunday. Had the Air Force done so, authorities would have entered his conviction into a federal database that arms dealers must check when someone tries to purchase a gun. And had that information been in the database, Kelley might not have been able to acquire weapons.

It was only after those comments that Winslow revealed his opinion on civilians purchasing assault weapons — which are completely counter to Trump’s views on the issue, although he used to support an assault weapons ban.

Usually a nominee for a post such as an assistant secretary at the Pentagon chooses to stick closely to the opinions of the commander-in-chief so as not to lose the nomination. It’s safe to say that Winslow didn’t play it safe.

Winslow disagrees with the person trying to give him a job

Trump’s feelings on the Constitution’s Second Amendment — the one that says “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” — are pretty clear.

“The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period,” the president’s campaign website reads. “Protecting that freedom is imperative.” And on March 20, Trump said that the Second Amendment is “very, very safe” during his presidency.

Trump’s feelings go against those of some senior retired generals. In 2013, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal — who commanded America’s elite troops worldwide and troops in Afghanistan — came out in support of gun control. "I think serious action is necessary," he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in 2013.

"Sometimes we talk about very limited actions on the edges and I just don't think that's enough,” he continued. “The number of people in America killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. And I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty culture, and so I think we need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

Research highlighted by my colleague German Lopez on Monday reached similar conclusions. “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” David Hemenway, the Injury Control Research Center’s director, wrote in one of those studies.

Winslow’s comments may stem from his background in health, as he may consider America’s overabundance of guns — about 88.8 guns per 100 people according to a 2007 estimate — a public health crisis.

But the man who wants to give Winslow a job in the Pentagon — President Trump — doesn’t see it that way.