The Star Tribune Editorial Board wisely wrote Aug. 6 about the how Congress has foolishly blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence due to pressure from the National Rifle Association. Regrettably, Minnesota has the same kind of information-suppressing law on its books.
Minnesota law prohibits the Department of Health from collecting and analyzing shooting data. Specifically, Minnesota Statute 144.05 declares, “the commissioner of health is prohibited from collecting data on individuals regarding lawful firearm ownership in the state or data related to an individual’s right to carry a weapon under M.S. 624.714.”
In other words, the Health Department is prohibited from scrutinizing data on shootings, even when the victims are children. And what is unique about this provision is that it is the only statutory proscription in the duties of the commissioner of health.
It’s peculiar, because both gun rights devotees and gun safety advocates argue that the numbers are on their side. Gun supporters proclaim homes and streets are safer if firearms are present and readily available. Gun safety advocates argue the opposite.
Similarly, those arguing for the right to carry firearms everywhere vehemently proclaim Minnesota is safer because they are armed in public. Gun safety proponents assert the opposite.
But nobody knows what the data actually show, because it is illegal to collect or analyze it. I suspect that homes without guns have fewer shootings than homes with guns. But the NRA argues that homes without guns are more vulnerable.
There’s so much that can be learned. Are well-armed homes safer than those that are not? Do those with permits to carry pose more of a risk to the public and their families than those without? Do our laws about proper gun storage actually protect children?
What’s the frequency of firearms being used in domestic abuse situations? Is there a difference in firearms violence between hunters who use sport guns for food compared with those who feel compelled to have weapons within reach at all times?
Where do gunshot suicide victims, especially minors, obtain their firearms? Do high-velocity weapons with warlike capabilities, high-capacity clips and bump stocks result in more deaths or injuries?
All these questions and more could be researched and the results shared with the public if the statutes were amended. Names would be kept private as is typical in health information.
Most Minnesotans do not know that collecting, analyzing and releasing public health data about deliberate, accidental, haphazard or suicidal shootings is illegal. I think they would be especially outraged to learn that even information about children being wounded or killed is covered up. This coverup statute has done nothing to make Minnesota safer. It’s time to repeal it.
Wes Skoglund, of Minneapolis, has served in both the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate.