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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Gun violence in King County (February 5, 2013)

More than 31,000 people in the United States are killed by gun violence each year. In King County, the death toll is more than 125 people a year. More people in King County die from gun violence than motor vehicle crashes. Many more are injured, with enormous economic and emotional costs.

Despite these deaths and injuries by gun violence, there are reasons to be optimistic that we can solve this public health threat. In the past 20 years, our nation has come together to dramatically decrease deaths from smoking and car crashes. We have created safer cars equipped with airbags and required child seats. We have changed social norms around tobacco use, especially among children, and supported educational campaigns about the health risks of smoking. We can take similar public health approaches to reducing gun violence.

We can also look to best practices in other countries and determine what might make sense here. Deaths from gun homicide are on average 20 times higher in the U.S. than other developed countries. In countries like Australia or the United Kingdom, the rates are 30 times lower.

The first step in developing strategies to decrease gun violence is to better understand current gun violence data and policies. To that end, this paper provides information on:

  • Overall firearm deaths and injuries;
  • Economic costs of gun violence on our community;
  • Firearm homicides, suicides and unintentional injuries;
  • Firearm ownership and access in King County; and
  • Firearm policies in Washington state.