FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 2/8/2013
Councilmember Tim Burgess
City Council Committee to consider public health package on gun safety
Elected officials from across state also send letter to Governor urging adoption of national standards for firearms violence reporting
City Councilmember Tim Burgess said today that his Council committee would consider funding public health initiatives designed to increase gun safety.
Partnering with the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center and public health agencies, the $371,000 package of initiatives would spur research on gun violence and improve the City and County’s response to mental health crises resulting from tragedies. In addition, Burgess collaborated with local elected officials from small towns and large cities across the state to send a letter today to Governor Inslee, urging him to adopt national standards for tracking and reporting gun violence.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis and this funding package enables Seattle to take positive action now,” said Councilmember Burgess, chair of the Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee. “By jump-starting research blocked for so long by the NRA, building the same emergency response system used by the Red Cross, and joining towns across the State to demand better standards for reporting violence, we will increase public safety.”
“The National Rifle Association has stifled federal research on methods to decrease gun violence for the last 17 years,” said Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH Professor of Pediatrics, Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, University of Washington. “I am very pleased to see this effort to support important research that can inform policy makers in our community and around the nation on the most effective ways to prevent these tragedies from continuing.”
The proposed study will evaluate the interrelationships between substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, gun ownership, injury admissions and deaths. The results will provide researchers and medical professionals with the information they need to improve outreach and counseling to prevent injuries from firearms, particularly among vulnerable populations. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and its supporters in Congress have long blocked federal funds from being used for this type of crucial research; City funding will jump-start this research at the local level.
“Our communal sense of safety has been shaken by recent national and local episodes of gun violence,” said Dr. Beth Ebel, Director, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, UW. “Recent events have highlighted areas of common concern and galvanized a call to act, as most firearm violence is preventable. These proposals address key causes of gun violence in Seattle and King County. They also lay the groundwork for developing programs that work.”
Enhanced Mental Health Emergency Management and Response ($218,000)
The initiative includes a state-of-the-art emergency management, response and triage system for mental health crises that has been used by public health teams in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, by the American Red Cross for natural disasters (the Joplin and Alabama tornadoes in 2011), by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during Superstorm Sandy and by Los Angeles County. The funding will enable the Northwest Healthcare Response Network, through their partner The Foundation for Health Care Equity, to purchase and install this emergency management and response program with Public Health Seattle-King County.
Adopting National Standards for Reporting Violence
Local elected officials from across Washington State signed and sent a letter to Governor Jay Inslee today urging him to issue an Executive Order directing our state to adopt the National Violent Death Reporting System standards. Washington’s participation will provide health professionals, researchers and policy makers with the basic information they need to assess prevention efforts and, most importantly, to determine when and how to prevent future harm and keep residents safe.
Eighteen other states already participate in the National Violent Death Reporting System. Overseen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, this system enables those states to collect, report and analyze data to better understand gun-related deaths and injuries.
These new initiatives come in the wake of the City of Seattle’s call to action for legislators in Olympia to strengthen Washington gun safety laws. On December 17, 2012, the City Council added language to the City’s legislative agenda advocating for a ban on assault weapons; a ban on large capacity ammunition magazines; universal background checks (closing the gun show loophole); trigger locks and safe storage requirements; and micro-stamping technology to improve the capability of police to trace fired bullets.
The Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee, which recently passed legislation placing greater emphasis on the importance of evidence in designing and evaluating programs, will receive a detailed briefing from Dr. Rivara and Dr. Ebel Wednesday, March 6 on the importance of better data and research for improving gun safety in Washington State. The committee will vote on this package of initiatives as part of City’s first quarter supplemental budget legislation.