Public Health Approach

Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis

Gun violence is a leading cause of premature death in the United States. Guns kill more than 35,000 people each year, and cause twice as many injuries. In many states, including Washington, gun violence costs hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs, and takes more lives than motor vehicle crashes.

The causes of gun violence are complex and deeply rooted in our culture. A comprehensive public health approach is necessary to address this growing crisis. Two of the most significant public health challenges in the last century in America—tobacco use and drunk driving—have been significantly reduced through the application of public health research and intervention techniques.

Supporting Seattle’s First-in-the-Nation Gun Violence Research

In 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to directly fund research into the public health impacts of gun violence in the community. Funding for research and prevention strategies is critical to closing the gap in knowledge surrounding gun violence.

One recent study, conducted by the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, found a remarkable linkage between gun violence and other health risk factors, as well as an extraordinary risk of gunshot victims being victimized again:

  • Individuals hospitalized with an injury and previously arrested for firearms or violence were 13 times more likely to be arrested again within the next five years.
  • 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-firearm injury reasons.
  • Individuals hospitalized with a firearm injury were 11 times more likely to die from gun violence within the next five years than people admitted for non-firearm injury reasons.

Interventions with this relatively small number of individuals have the potential to reduce their high risk of recidivism, and reduce firearm violence in Seattle. The Alliance for Gun Responsibility is now helping to expand this research into a new study into the best means for intervening with these high-risk communities to reduce their risk of becoming victims of gun violence.

The Harborview Trauma Center, Seattle Police Department, Seattle-King County Public Health, and University of Washington School of Social Work Gun Violence Intervention Research Project are all collaborating to test new methods of intervention during hospital stays, dedicated case management following discharge, and organizing agency support for those previously impacted by gun violence.