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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Gun violence in King County

Gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature death in the U.S.1 More than 31,000 people a year die from gunshots in the U.S.2 Based on the most recent data available, the U.S. homicide rate is 30 times higher than Australia, France, or the United Kingdom.3

From 2007 to 2011, 2,903 Washingtonians, including 633 King County residents died from gun violence. Of those, 200 were Washington youth 19 and under, including 47 King County youth.4

Firearm suicide and homicide rates by age, King County, 2006-2010 combinedHomicide

  • In King County, firearms were responsible for nearly six out of 10 homicides.
  • From 2007 to 2011, 164 King County residents were killed in firearm homicides. Of those, 32 were ages 19 and under.
  • Firearm homicide rates peak in 15 to 24 year olds and then generally decline with age.
  • Among 15 to 24 year olds, males were 10 times more likely than females to die from firearm homicides.
  • Firearm homicide rates for Blacks/African Americans were 4.7 times higher than the county average.

Suicide

  • In King County, 42% of suicides occurred with guns.
  • From 2007 to 2011, 460 King County residents committed suicide by a gun. Of those, 13 were youth.
  • Suicide gun deaths generally increase with age, climbing to 10 per 100,000 in people 65 and older.
  • Firearm suicide rates are highest in American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN). Rates for Whites, while lower than rates for AI/AN, are about three times as high as the average for Asians/Pacific Islanders, Blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics.
  • Firearm suicide rates for men are eight times higher than for women.

The cost of gun violence

  • On average over the years 2007-2011, firearm fatalities and non-fatal hospitalizations cost $177 million annually in medical costs and lost productivity in King County. Direct medical costs were $2.2 million, and work loss accounted for $174 million annually on average over the time period.
  • Violent crime (including murders, rapes, assaults, and robberies that involve firearms) cost Seattle $89 million in 2010 or $144 per resident.5
  • A 10% reduction in homicides would boost the total value of all residential housing by $2.9 billion in the Seattle metropolitan area.6

Guns in the home

  • In 2009, firearms were present in approximately 24% of King County households (183,300 homes), the largest percentage in 13 years.
  • Among households with firearms, an estimated 23.2% (39,100 households) stored them loaded and 14.7% (25,095 households) stored them loaded and unlocked.
  • In 2009, an estimated 5,800 King County children lived in homes where firearms were stored loaded and unlocked.

Firearm policy in Washington state

In 1993 the Washington State Legislature preempted local cities and counties from enacting firearm laws with the exception of prohibiting new gun shops within close proximity to schools.

In Washington state there is:

  • No background check required prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties
  • No prohibition on the possession of assault weapons, 50 caliber rifles or large capacity ammunition magazine
  • No permit or license required for handguns
  • No Child Access Prevention (safe storage) law
  • No limit on the number of handguns that can be purchased at one time

See expanded report on Gun Violence in King County

References:

1 Webster, D.W. et al. The Case for Gun Policy Reforms in America. Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. October 2012
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). National Center for Injury Control and Prevention.
3 United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Homicide Statistics, accessed on 1/8/2013
4 King County and Washington State gun violence mortality totals include intentional (homicide and suicide), unintended (accidental) and undetermined intent.
5 Numbers will not sum due to rounding, WISQARS Custom Cost of Injury Reports, Centers for Disease Control.
6 Shapiro, RJ, Hassett KA. The Economic Benefits of Reducing Violent Crime: A Case Study of 8 American Cities. Center for American Progress, Washington, DC, June 2012.
7 Ibid.

Notes:

The source of data on firearm deaths is the Washington State Department of Health statistical deaths file. Data on households with firearms are from the Washington State Department of Health Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.  Public Health – Seattle & King County is responsible for data analysis.