Washington is going to take a different tack on reducing gun violence, Gov. Jay Inslee says: Treat it as a public health problem.
Inslee unveiled his plans on the heels of President Barack Obama’s executive order on tightening background checks for gun sales and other measures.
“This is a public health crisis,” Inslee said. “We’re going to address it with a public health approach.”
He opened his announcement Wednesday with some sobering information: Gun-related deaths have exceeded motor vehicle deaths in recent years and suicides account for nearly 80 percent of all firearm deaths.
Inslee’s office said that according to state Health Department figures, between 2012 and 2014, gun injuries killed an average of 665 people per year, while vehicle accidents killed 497.
As with any public health approach, a solution starts with research.
Inslee has ordered state agencies like the Department of Health, along with the University of Washington and local agencies, to gather data on gun-related deaths and injuries. That information will be used to form policies and strategies in reducing gun violence.
Inslee said this approach has worked to reduce motor vehicle-related deaths.
“The result was a suite of strategies: to increase seat belt use, DUI enforcement, law enforcement and improved vehicle design,” he said.
Inslee pointed out that 20 years ago, people didn’t use seat belts. Today, it’s the rule.
He has also directed the Department of Health to implement the state’s newly released suicide prevention plan.