Minnesota doctors call for ban on assault weapons

Published 8:25 am Friday, March 9, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota’s largest physicians organization is calling for a ban on assault weapons and more research on gun violence following last month’s Florida high school shooting.

Leaders of the Minnesota Medical Association said it’s time that gun violence becomes a public health issue. The association has about 10,000 members and represents approximately one-third of Minnesota physicians.

“Few threats to our health and safety can be eliminated, but failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the group said in a statement Thursday.

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The doctors are calling for renewing and strengthening an assault weapons ban, including high-capacity magazines. An AR-15 rifle was used in the Feb. 14 Parkland High School shooting that killed 17 people. High-capacity magazines were used in the Las Vegas concert shooting last October that killed 58 people.

Doctors are also pushing for increased research on gun violence. Congressional restrictions have blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducing public health research on gun violence in recent years.

The Minnesota Department of Health is working to make data available that can be used to identify trends in violent deaths and offer solutions, said Dr. Jon Roesler, who supervises the state’s injury epidemiology programs.

“You can’t prevent what you can’t count,” Roesler said.

The association also called for better treatment and screenings for mental illnesses, though most with mental illnesses aren’t violent.

“It’s important, as a significant health care organization in this state, that we be seen as involved on this issue,” said Dr. Randy Rice, a family doctor who is chairman of the association’s board.

But not all doctors agree with the association’s stance.

A professional organization shouldn’t take a side on such a politically divisive issue, said Dr. Alexander Stricker, a physician in Cannon Falls who has competed in tactical shooting tournaments.

He also questioned the effectiveness of gun legislation.