NRATV host Cam Edwards has repeatedly highlighted the country’s raging opioid epidemic while arguing that gun violence gets too much media attention by comparison. While both crises require major media attention and public health resources, Edwards’ commentary on the issue serves the the NRA’s interest in downplaying the toll of gun violence.
NRATV Host Frequently Uses Opioid Epidemic To Downplay Gun Violence
During his three-hour weekday NRATV show Cam & Company, Edwards regularly discusses the opioid epidemic that “is hitting Americans all across the country” and points out the increase in deaths from opioid overdose from 2014 to 2016 in states including Ohio, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and West Virginia. At the end of his monologues, however, Edwards often uses the drug overdose epidemic to downplay pervasive gun violence in the United States.
During the March 15 edition of Cam & Company, Edwards alleged that gun violence prevention activists, organizations, and the media are “much more interested in researching reasons why we should go after the Second Amendment rights of Americans” than in fighting the opioid epidemic.
CAM EDWARDS (HOST): The media, the anti-gun activists out there, deep-pocketed billionaires like Michael Bloomberg -- Bloomberg has his own school of public health at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. And they seem sadly much more interested in researching reasons why we should go after the Second Amendment rights of Americans than they do in fighting this epidemic.
During another broadcast the next week, Edwards read a list of opioid overdose rates compared to homicide rates in several states. He then claimed that the “mainstream media tries to tell us that we need to be more concerned about things like The Hearing Protection Act or national right to carry reciprocity,” both NRA legislative priorities that would weaken gun laws nationally. Edwards went on to emphasize the opioid overdose epidemic, saying that is “what we need to be concerned about. … Not bills that are out there respecting and restoring and strengthening our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
During another March broadcast of his show, Edwards complained that the national media is “not talking much about … the staggering spike in overdose deaths” and that the gun violence epidemic “gets more attention.”
In addition to these examples, Media Matters' regular monitoring of Edwards’ programming and writing has identified commentary that uses the opioid epidemic to downplay gun violence as an emerging talking point for the NRA.
For example, in a March 15 article titled “The Real Epidemic” on the online edition of NRA’s magazine America’s 1st Freedom, Edwards compared West Virginia’s opioid overdose death rate to Chicago’s homicide rate and claimed that the media is too busy pushing stronger gun laws to “pay more than scattered attention to the unfolding devastation caused by opioid overdoses.”
He also claimed that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg “has his own Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, but they seem to be much more interested in doing research on why we supposedly need more gun control laws than in finding solutions to the soaring overdose death rates.”
Contrary to Edwards’ claims, Bloomberg has taken significant steps to battle the opioid epidemic. While serving as mayor, Bloomberg created the Mayor’s Task Force on Prescription Painkiller Abuse to address a six-fold increase in overdoses in New York City between 2004 and 2010. In September 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bloomberg “is donating $300 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore to finance an ambitious effort to target opioid addiction, gun violence and other issues that are shortening lives and disrupting communities across the U.S.”
Both Guns And Opioids Are Creating Serious Epidemics
The opioid epidemic is undoubtedly a growing problem that is devastating communities nationwide. But it is unfair for the NRA to use one epidemic to downplay another.
In February 2013, the National Physicians Alliance declared gun violence to be “a public health issue that has reached epidemic proportions.” In a December 2015 opinion piece for U.S. News & World Report, the chief medical officer of the New York State Office of Mental Health Dr. Lloyd Sederer called gun violence “a deadly infectious disease” which “know[s] few boundaries.”
On average, roughly 100,000 people are shot annually in the United States, and this figure does not include incidents that don’t result in physical injury, such as using a gun to threaten or intimidate someone. In 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 385 mass shootings, and 672 children ages 11 or under were killed or injured by guns.
The NRA Is In Lockstep With Donald Trump, Whose Health Care Bill Would Have Worsened The Opioid Crisis
NRATV has effectively served as a propaganda arm for President Donald Trump since he was elected. In a January video, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre declared that his group was “Donald Trump’s strongest, most unflinching, ally.”
As a consequence, the NRA threw in its lot with Trump as he led congressional Republicans in an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite evidence that doing so would actually make the opioid epidemic much worse. According to Vox, the ACA expanded health care coverage to about “2.8 million Americans with drug use disorders,” and repealing the legislation could leave millions of addicts “stranded without potentially lifesaving care. If the Republicans’ attempt to replace the ACA had been successful, it would have “flatly reduce[d] coverage” and “water[ed] down coverage requirements for addiction treatment.” But that is something you aren’t likely to hear about on NRATV.