Council Committee votes to fund new public health gun safety package
Seattle - City Councilmembers demonstrated their leadership on gun safety today when the Government Performance and Finance Committee voted to fund a new public health gun safety package.
Partnering with the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center and public health agencies, the $370,500 proposal will spur long-stalled research on gun violence and enhance the City and County’s response to mental health crises resulting from tragedies.
"While our leaders in Olympia and Washington, D.C. failed to enact gun safety legislation this year, Seattle is demonstrating its leadership by taking positive action today," said Councilmember Tim Burgess. "The people of Seattle overwhelmingly support doing everything we can to increase gun safety. This funding will jump-start research blocked by the National Rifle Association and build the same emergency response system used by the Red Cross."
According to previous news reports, the City of Seattle would be the first in the nation to provide direct funding for basic research into the causes and effects of gun violence.
"This research on gun violence will show us what impact it has on public health, and hopefully identify strategies for reducing injuries and deaths," said Councilmember Nick Licata.
"Gun violence is THE public health issue of our time," said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw. "With appropriate research and commitment, we can reduce both murders and suicides in our community. We must."
"This is the way to guide us to safe, responsible gun ownership," said Councilmember Jean Godden. "It’s a step toward a sane, caring policy."
The public health gun safety package includes two additions to the Mayor’s 1st Quarter Supplemental budget detailed below.
Public Health Gun Safety Research ($153,000)
"Sustained commitment to reducing the public health impact of gun violence is critically important to our city," said Dr. Beth Ebel, Director, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, UW. "In my work as a pediatric trauma physician at Harborview Medical Center/UW, I regularly care for children and teens who were victims of gun violence. Nearly all of these devastating injuries are preventable. So this is a time to take action, work together, and find evidence-based approaches to reduce gun violence."
The results will provide researchers and medical professionals with the information they need to improve outreach and counseling to prevent injuries from firearms, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Enhanced Mental Health Emergency Management and Response ($217,500)
The initiative includes a state-of-the-art emergency management, response and triage system for mental health crises that has been used by public health teams in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, by the American Red Cross for natural disasters (the Joplin and Alabama tornadoes in 2011), by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during Superstorm Sandy and by Los Angeles County. The funding will enable Seattle-King County Public Health to administer the purchase and installation of this emergency management and response program.
The Committee will vote on the entire first quarter supplemental budget legislation as early as May 15. A vote by the Full Council would then take place the Monday following the committee vote.