Dean Winslow, who was nominated by President Trump to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he was not happy with the state of gun control in the U.S. today. In remarks one does not typically expect to hear from a Republican’s nominee, Winslow that he disagreed with a system of law that allowed anyone off the street to purchase a semi-automatic rifle. Speaking in front of the Senate Armed Service Committee, the Stanford professor and former Air Force colonel spoke bluntly in regards to the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
“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 semi-automatic like an AR-15, which apparently was the weapon that was used,” Winslow said. “I think that’s an issue not as much for this committee, but elsewhere.”
If the remarks weren’t disconcerting enough on their own, they were made more so by the fact that Winslow wasn’t even responding to a question about assault rifles in the first place. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was, in fact, questioning Winslow about the military’s handling of domestic violence charges and whether shooter Devin Patrick Kelley should have received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force after being court martialed. Winslow began by directly answering the question – saying the problem with Kelley’s access to a gun came from the Air Force’s failure to report his record to the FBI – before moving on to the above comments.
As Winslow predicted, his answer rankled several Republicans on the committee, including Chairman John McCain, who said, “I don’t think that’s in your area of responsibility or expertise.”
McCain was also troubled by a later Winslow assertion, that he was in favor of “therapeutic abortions” performed in the military.
“It speaks broadly to abortions performed for a recognized appropriate medical necessity,” Winslow explained. “Generally, when the life of the mother is at risk. That being said, this procedure should only be authorized as prescribed under existing statutory authority.”
“You better clean it up doctor or you are going to have trouble getting it through the Senate,” McCain warned, though whether he was speaking solely about Winslow’s pre-hearing questionnaire or his general demeanor before the committee isn’t clear.
Obviously, it’s not necessarily the point of the Republican-controlled Senate or the White House to make sure that every nominee to every federal post agrees with GOP doctrine on every single issue, but Winslow’s view of an AR-15’s public availability is way off the map. We’re not saying it speaks to his capability of serving as the top mental health man in the Pentagon, but we wouldn’t blame Republicans for moving forward very cautiously with his confirmation.