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King County Executive directs Public Health to develop strategies for preventing gun violence
King County Executive Dow Constantine today signed an executive order directing Public Health – Seattle and King County to develop innovative, data-driven local strategies for preventing gun violence in King County.
“Gun violence is a public safety crisis. It is also a public health crisis. Locally, we can approach gun violence as a preventable public health problem,” said Constantine, as part of his 2013 State of the County address. “State and federal law pre-empt our ability to regulate firearms, but that should not stop us from thinking innovatively about what we can do within our own authority.”
More than 31,000 people in the U.S. are killed by gun violence each year. In King County, the death toll from guns is more than 125 people a year. More people in King County die from gun violence than motor vehicle crashes.
The Executive order directs Public Health – Seattle and King County to gather data that can develop strategies for preventing gun violence, starting with three key questions:
Who is being harmed by guns? Public Health will institute a quarterly Youth Shooting Review, modeled after the existing Child Death Review, to look for patterns in how guns are used by and against children. Public Health will work with the criminal justice system, human services organizations, schools and families to conduct a systematic review of the circumstances and develop community interventions that can prevent further tragedies.
· Demographically, who owns guns and how do they use and handle them? Public Health will collect information on guns used in gun injuries and deaths to develop sensible policies based on what’s really happening in our community. The department will add questions to its existing anonymous surveys regarding gun ownership and storage, to develop a better understanding of how to promote responsible gun ownership and gun usage.
Who sells guns and what can sellers do to encourage responsible gun ownership? Public Health will work with sellers and retailers to develop strategies to encourage safe storage of firearms – for example, working with retailers on how they can display gun safes and trigger locks more prominently in areas where guns are sold, and educate buyers on how they can prevent injury and death.
“We need to better understand how and when firearms are used in acts of violence in order to make the changes necessary to put an end to gun violence in King County,” said Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle and King County.
Based on the data and information gathered under the executive order, the Executive will convene local partners, County Councilmembers, and other elected leaders to develop effective strategies.
“Once we understand the underlying causes of gun violence in King County, we can develop real-world solutions to prevent real-life tragedies,” said Constantine. “Now is the time.”