‘Shakes us to our core’: State researchers using data to curb all forms of gun violence

SPOKANE, Wash. — On the heels of another horrific school shooting, communities aren’t only worried about mass shootings. Gun violence as a whole has state leaders taking a new look at how we focus efforts to curb the violence.

“It shakes us all to our core,” said Dr. Frederick Rivara. He’s the Director of the Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program at the University of Washington. “We as a country are affected by this. You — me — we’re neighbors. We’re all affected by this.”

The nation is mourning the loss of life in Uvalde, Texas, but this kind of violence isn’t the only issue plaguing the country.

“Mass shootings, they get a lot of headlines, but they’re not the day-to-day firearm violence that we’re working to address,” said Kate Kelly. She’s the Executive Director for the Office of Firearm Safety & Violence Prevention.

This is a fairly new organization in the Department of Commerce. It’s made up of law enforcement, public health and community advocates working to find proactive solutions to the growing issue of gun violence and misuse in general.

On top of mass shootings, suicides, domestic violence and gang related gun violence are major concerns in the state.

They’re using data to dive into hot spots for gun violence in the state. These are top 5 Washington counties where the most people have been killed by gun violence in the last five years.

1. King
2. Pierce
3. Yakima
4. Snohomish
5. Spokane

By using data, the Office of Firearm Safety & Violence Prevention targets communities dealing with the most gun violence and sees how increased funding and programming can intervene and save lives.

“What we’re doing is trying to focus on those areas and identify those high-risk neighborhoods, people and focus our high risk intervention efforts on them,” Kelly said.

Kelly wants to see a decrease in deaths, but making change happen is even harder.

“Unless the individual states like Texas start putting in laws that restrict access to firearms,” Rivara said. “For example, not allowing an 18-year old to go in and walk out with two AR-15’s, unless something like that happens, I don’t have good hope.”

Rivara says states need to step up to address the issue before more parents lose a child at a place that’s supposed to be safe.

These researchers say they’re seeing a disturbing increase in firearm violence here in Washington since the pandemic. Rivara says he isn’t confident this will happen but adds that federal background checks would go a long way to make sure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands.

READ: How Washington and Idaho gun laws compare to Texas’

READ: Local advocacy groups traumatized from Uvalde shooting, demand action