Physicians, Physicians-in-Training Attend Workshop on How to Prevent Gun Violence

Nearly 100 physicians and physicians-in-training gathered in St. Paul on Jan. 31 to discuss how doctors might better address the gun violence public health crisis. 

Panelists - which included a University of Minnesota professor and epidemiologist, an emergency department physician and a senator/hospitalist - discussed the lack of gun research that is currently available, how technology could make firearm ownership much safer, and the stigma toward mental health, among other topics. 
Sen. Matt Klein, MD, provided attendees with an update on current legislation on gun violence prevention measures.

Last March, the MMA released a statement calling on lawmakers to pass more common-sense laws to address this public health crisis. The discussion on gun violence prevention continued throughout the year, including several policies presented at the 2018 MMA Annual Conference. Each was adopted, eventually, by the MMA Board of Trustees. 

In Nov. 2018, the National Rifle Association reacted to a new gun violence study in Annals of Internal Medicine, tweeting that physicians pushing for gun control should “stay in their lane.” This led to significant push-back by physicians in social media and the creation of #ThisIsOurLane and #ThisIsMyLane.

“I’ve never been more proud of the doctors of the MMA than when they came out with that statement (on common-sense laws),” said panelist Sen. Matt Klein, MD. Klein told the group that he is actively supporting legislation on expanding criminal background checks to include private sales such as at gun shows or online and adopting a “red flag” law that would allow relatives and law enforcement to ask a judge to take firearms away from individuals who are deemed to be a serious threat to others or themselves.

The workshop grew out of this heightened passion for preventing gun violence. 

Panelist Marizen Ramirez, MPH, PhD, associate professor, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, made the case that more studies are needed to help with preventive solutions. Until it was altered in 2018, the Dickey Amendment made it difficult for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to secure funding to study firearm violence. 

Carolyn McClain, MD, another panelist and MMA board member, echoed Ramirez’s call for more research. She also shared gut-wrenching stories she heard at a physician’s conference in Florida, a state that has been largely affected by gun violence in recent years. 

Along with the panel, attendees at the workshop participated in table discussions on a variety of topics such as: how to discuss gun violence prevention with patients; how to talk to legislators about gun violence prevention; how physicians could prevent gun violence and debunking myths about gun violence and mental health.
Partners in the workshop included: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; HealthPartners; Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians; Minnesota Chapter, American College of Physicians; Minnesota Medical Association Foundation; Minnesota Psychiatry Society; Twin Cities Medical Society; and Zumbro Valley Medical Society.

For more tips, visit the MMA’s website and the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians’ website