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On July 29, 2015, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund), in partnership with the Minneapolis Police Department, convened a forum at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis to discuss gun violence prevention policies. More than 60 representatives from various fields, including mental health advocates/researchers, domestic violence prevention professionals, law enforcement, faith leaders, and public policy experts attended the forum.
Members of the Ed Fund-convened Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy (Joshua Horwitz, Executive Director of the Ed Fund; Jeffrey Swanson, Professor at the Duke University School of Medicine; and Beth McGinty of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) presented evidence from their report, “Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach for State Policy.” They were joined by Chief Janeé Harteau of the Minneapolis Police Department, Dr. Alan Lifson of the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Alisa Gutman, a clinical associate at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Medical Director of the Penn Human Rights Clinic, who shared the viewpoints of local law enforcement, epidemiologists and mental health practitioners, respectively. In addition, Sami Rahamim, a gun violence survivor and advocate, shared his personal story, emphasizing the importance of policies focused on reducing gun violence in Minnesota and on a national level.
The panel emphasized that factors such as a history of violence, domestic violence, and substance abuse can increase an individual’s risk of dangerous behavior more than mental illness on its own. Therefore, the panel suggested that firearm prohibitions should focus on those criteria that are known to raise an individual’s risk of dangerous behavior.
Although Minnesota laws mirror most of the federal firearm prohibitions, the panel discussed important opportunities to improve gun violence prevention policy in the state. For example, something like California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO)—a policy that would allow family members and law enforcement to petition the courts to temporarily suspend firearms access during periods of crisis, irrespective of a mental illness diagnosis—would be an important tool to keep Minnesotans safe. Learn more about the GVRO policy here.