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Council News Release

7/7/2014  10:45:00 AM

Alex Pedersen, Council President Burgess' office, 206-684-8806
Dana Robinson Slote, (206) 615-0061

Council President Tim Burgess

UW Harborview Doctors Link Gun-Related Hospitalizations
to Future Injuries, Crime and Death

Study Funded by City Council Pinpoints Where to Focus Violence Prevention Efforts

SEATTLE - Researchers from the University of Washington's Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center presented findings this morning to the City Council from a first-of-its-kind study of who is most at risk of harm from firearms in King County and Washington State.

In June 2013, Seattle became the first city in the nation to provide direct funding for basic research into the effects of gun violence, according to previous news reports.

"The evidence shows gun violence begets gun violence. If you are harmed by a gun, you are much more likely to be harmed again or to harm others," said Council President Tim Burgess. "It is unfortunate that the National Rifle Association has blocked this type of research at the national level because it provides valuable information for policymakers and the public."

Last year, the City Council asked UW Medicine researchers from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center to evaluate and report on the interrelationships between hospitalizations due to gun violence, substance abuse, mental health diagnoses, arrest records and deaths.

"Data from this study resoundingly confirms proactive interventions can prevent subsequent gun injuries and crime," said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council's Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. "What we are asking to do is to help people and not infringe on an individual's second amendment rights. These are common sense programs and laws we can enact to keep guns out of the hands of people at the greatest risk of causing further harm."

The research findings also pinpoint where public health officials, law enforcement and social service providers should focus their efforts to prevent future harm from guns.

"Early intervention efforts should include not only the medical professionals, but also stronger partnerships among public health, law enforcement, the courts, social service providers and others. By working more closely together we can prevent subsequent injury, death and crime," says Dr. Fred Rivara, a UW professor of pediatrics, and researcher at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

The research demonstrated that hospitalizations due to firearm-related injury are strongly correlated with poor outcomes after discharge from the hospital, including future injuries, criminal involvement and death. The research also demonstrated a greater risk of subsequent violent or firearm-related crime, hospitalizations and death among those with a prior history of firearm injuries or crimes compared to those with psychiatric disorders.

The researchers looked at hospitalization records in 2006-2007 and data from the previous and subsequent five years. Key findings from the study include:

  • Twenty-five percent of people hospitalized for a firearm-related injury were arrested for violent or firearm-related crime within the next 5 years.
  • Individuals hospitalized with an injury and previously arrested for firearms or violence were 13 times more likely to be arrested again within the next 5 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-injury reasons.
  • Individuals hospitalized with a firearm injury were 11 times more likely to die from gun violence within the next 5 years than people admitted for non-injury reasons.
  • Individuals hospitalized with an injury and with a prior arrest for a gun-related or violent crime were 43 times more likely to be murdered within the next 5 years after being discharged from the hospital compared to people without such a history.

Since this research was started in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the U.S. Center for Injury Prevention and Control reports that more than 30,000 Americans have been killed by firearms.

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