WASHINGTON — A Defense Department nominee whose confirmation was put on hold over comments he made about gun control announced in a op-ed on Wednesday that he has withdrawn from consideration for the post.
Dean Winslow, a retired Air Force colonel and flight surgeon who was being considered as an assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in a piece on the Washington Post website that the growing political fight over his confirmation remarks have made him too much of a distraction to effectively help the department.
“I have the credentials to help, including 35 years of experience in the Air Force in military and academic medicine …” he wrote. “But unfortunately, I do not possess one credential the committee wanted to see: I do not support the unrestricted ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons by civilians.”
In November, during a confirmation hearing just days after 46 people were killed by a gunman in a Texas Church, Winslow turned a question about domestic violence cases in the military into personal comments about gun control.
“I’d also like to say, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, 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,” he told lawmakers. “I think that’s an issue, not so much for this committee, but elsewhere.”
The comments drew a quick rebuke from committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said the issue was outside “your area of responsibility or expertise.”
In his op-ed, Winslow (who served four deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan) said he has no opposition to civilian-owned firearms but said high-powered assault rifles are unsuitable for untrained civilians.
“As commander of an Air Force hospital in Baghdad during the surge, I have seen what these weapons do to human beings,” he wrote. “The injuries are devastating.”
He also argued that the weapons are a poor choice for hunting or self-defense, saying other firearms allow for better control and fewer accidents.
“Assault weapons in the United States are not being used to kill ‘bad guys’ in self-defense or to provide for a ‘well-regulated militia’ but for entertainment, mass murder and domestic terrorism,” he wrote. “Is this really the intent of the Second Amendment?”
Winslow was originally nominated by President Donald Trump for the health post in October. He most recently worked as the vice chair of medicine at Stanford University, and spent 15 years in pharmaceuticals and biotech industry, helping to develop antiretroviral drugs.
After the gun comments, his nomination was stalled in the Senate Armed Services Committee shortly after the November hearing, even as other nominees were advanced to a full chamber vote.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.