Minnesota health care systems label gun violence a public health crisis

A sign says "Welcome, Bienvenidos, Robb Elementary"
Law enforcement officers speak together outside of Robb Elementary School following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. The leaders of 10 health care systems serving Minnesota released a joint statement Wednesday calling gun violence a public health crisis, and pledging to seek solutions.
Brandon Bell | Getty Images

The leaders of 10 health care systems serving Minnesota released a joint statement Wednesday calling gun violence a public health crisis, and pledging to seek solutions.

"As health care providers, we see the impacts of gun violence firsthand every day. We uniquely understand the devastation of this violence in our hospitals and clinics, and the toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and the care providers who treat the victims. We have an important role to play in creating a safer future for all," reads the statement signed by the CEOs of Allina Health, CentraCare, Children’s Minnesota, Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Gillette Children’s, HealthPartners, Hennepin Healthcare, North Memorial Health and Sanford Health.

Those health care leaders say they're pledging "to collaborate and take action on the development of solutions to prevent gun violence and advance important conversations on reforms."

"We will continue to be fierce advocates for the safety of our employees, patients and the communities we serve, inside and outside our hospital and clinic walls. By formally declaring gun violence as the public health crisis that it is, we will collectively seek the solutions required to save lives and stem the tide of violence," the statement reads.

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The statement comes in the wake of — and cites — recent mass shootings at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y.; an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; and a health care campus in Tulsa, Okla.

It also cites federal statistics showing more than 19,000 people died in homicides involving guns in the U.S. in 2020, and that firearms are now the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.

"These statistics are appalling and outrage us as health care providers and should outrage us all," the statement reads. "Everyone deserves a world where they can feel safe and live their lives without fear of gun violence.

Wednesday's statement was not signed by Mayo Clinic. Mayo had issued a statement on social media on June 3, announcing that its buildings would be lit orange to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

"We feel the weight of the violence that has played out in recent weeks in spaces where we feel safest," the Mayo post read.

Wednesday's statement from health care system leaders follows one issued on June 1 by the Minnesota Hospital Association and Minnesota Medical Association, which also labeled gun violence a public health crisis.

"Minnesota’s health care facilities and campuses must remain places of healing – ensuring they are safe for patients, our staff and volunteers, and visitors," that statement read. "As guardians of community health, we stand ready to work with policymakers and stakeholders on solutions to prevent these tragedies now and in the future."

And in 2016, NPR reported that the American Medical Association adopted a policy labeling gun violence a public health crisis, and said it would lobby Congress to overturn a policy banning the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence.