With a City Council vote in June of 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to fund direct research on gun safety. The Council took this action because the National Rifle Association consistently blocks research funding at the federal level and because our leaders in Washington, DC and Olympia have been unable to enact reasonable gun safety measures.
Specifically, the City Council asked researchers from the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center to evaluate interrelationships between hospitalizations due to gun violence, substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, arrest records and deaths. Today, the researchers presented their findings to the Council.
The evidence shows gun violence begets gun violence. If you are harmed by a gun, you are much more likely to be harmed again or to harm others.
The research demonstrated that hospitalizations due to firearm-related injury are strongly correlated with poor outcomes after discharge from the hospital, including future injuries, criminal involvement and death. For example, individuals hospitalized for a firearm injury were 30 times more likely to be re-hospitalized for another firearm injury than people admitted to the hospital for non-injury reasons.
The research also showed a greater risk of subsequent violent or firearm-related crime, hospitalizations, and death among those with a prior history of firearm injuries or crimes compared to those with psychiatric disorders.
The findings pinpoint where public health officials, law enforcement, and social service providers should focus their efforts to prevent future harm from guns. It is unfortunate that the NRA has blocked this type of research at the national level because it provides valuable information for policymakers and the public.
According to Dr. Fred Rivara, a UW professor of pediatrics and researcher at Harborview, early intervention efforts should include not only the medical professionals, but also stronger partnerships among public health, law enforcement, the courts, social service providers and others. By working more closely together we can prevent subsequent injury, death and crime. Dr. Rivara also points to the long-term benefits of evidence-based early childhood programs.
In Seattle, if we gather good data to understand who is most affected by crime, we can continue to invest in what is proven to work to keep them safe.