By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Medical Society has joined the ranks of physician and scientist groups calling gun violence a public health problem.

The declaration came out of the Society’s annual meeting over the weekend.

Medical Society president Dr. Bruce MacLeod says gun violence should be studied the same way doctors study diabetes and heart disease.

“We really need to understand what we can do to mitigate it,” he said. “Is it the users? Is it the guns? Can you engineer guns to be safer? All of these are questions that should be studied.”

MacLeod says the Society hopes the CDC will begin funding research soon.

National Rifle Association (NRA) backed legislation has forbidden federally funded gun research since 1996.

After the massacre of school children in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama issued an executive order lifting the ban, but no new projects have been announced.

McLeod says the lack of research makes it difficult to develop a prevention plan:

“We want to get data so we can understand it, because that’s the best way you can make the right decision.”

The Society represents 20,000 physicians and medical students statewide.