A gun violence prevention meeting took place at Seattle City Hall on Wednesday. The event had been planned long in advance, but the recent shooting deaths at Marysville-Pilchuck High School highlight its significance. KUOW’s John O’Brien reports.
The Firearm Violence Prevention Leadership Summit drew federal, state and local public health and law enforcement leaders. King County Executive Dow Constantine opened the conference by lamenting an epidemic of firearm-related deaths in King County, beyond the more high-profile cases.
Constantine: “More people in King County are now killed by firearms than by car crashes.”
In early 2013, Constantine issued an executive order calling for a public health approach to what he termed a preventable health and safety problem. So far the result has been the county’s safe storage Lock It Up campaign, educational outreach to gun retailers and a review of youth gun violence.
Constantine says sharing gun violence data on multiple levels will be key to continuing prevention efforts. Approximately 130 people die in firearm incidents each year in King County. And over 6,000 county households with children contain loaded, unlocked guns.
Seven out of 10 King County gun deaths are suicides. Jennifer Stuber is a professor in the University of Washington School of Social Work and director of Forefront, a suicide prevention organization. She lost her husband to a firearm suicide in 2011.
Stuber says the tragedy in Marysville likely points to the larger issue of undiagnosed, untreated mental illness. She believes the public, doctors and therapists can do more to address warning signs. But gun availability remains a key issue.
Stuber: “Truly, how did this kid get access to that gun? And it’s a really important conversation and I think people on both sides of this issue can really agree with, that there is no way that a 14-year-old should have had access to that firearm.”
As devastating as the recent losses are, Stuber hopes they can somehow be a catalyst for change.
Summit participants will release details of new gun violence prevention strategies in the coming days.