The Minnesota Medical Association, the largest physicians' organization in Minnesota is calling for a ban on assault weapons. Following the school massacre in Florida last month where 17 students and educators were killed, the group says there's no time for inaction and that gun violence has become a public health crisis.
"Minnesota Medical Association has been concerned about guns and gun-related deaths for years," said Dr.Douglas Wood, President-Elect of the MMA. "But, in recent days, with a lot of discussion about what's happening in the United States, we thought it's time to reiterate some of our concerns, and to make a stronger statement."
Gun violence and firearm-related accidents kill more than 30,000 Americans each year. In Minnesota, there were more than 400 firearm-related deaths in 2016. The doctors are calling for a "renewal and strengthening" of the assault weapons ban, including the high-capacity magazines guns like the ones used in the Parkland high school shooting, and the Las Vegas concert massacre that claimed 58 lives.
"Failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option," the association said in a statement released Thursday morning.
"We're really hopeful that policymakers will start by making some common sense changes to existing laws that will emphasize the importance of criminal background checks done thoroughly, at the time of gun purchase or exchange, really beginning to hold sellers accountable when they don't do background checks," the president-elect said.
"Doctors have strong opinions on both sides of the issue. We have hoped that beginning to emphasize the importance of this discussion, we can have a full and open discussion," he said.
The MMA is pushing for better coverage and access to mental health services, as well as more funding for gun violence research.
"We should not create stigmas. With all the discussion now about mental health and guns, we should remember that people with mental illness are not by nature violent," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used to collect data on gun ownership but an amendment from 1996 cut nearly all funding data collection on firearm violence. It also bars the CDC from "advocating or promoting gun control."
Dr. Woods — who hunted while growing up — says more data gathering can improve understanding the gun violence problem and prevent future gun-related deaths.
"It's very important that we promote responsible gun ownership, not that we simply ban guns," he said.
There are about 10,000 doctors in the Minnesota Medical Association--we do not know how many of them are gun owners themselves.