Public health at forefront of King County's gun initiative

Feb 4, 2013

The debate over gun control may be focused on the nation’s capital, but one local official says King County will soon take measures of its own.

About 125 people die each year of gun violence in King County. Executive Dow Constantine says the way a county government can chip away at that number is through a public health approach. He announced in his state of the county address that he is directing the health department to collect new data on gun deaths and injuries.

He says that can help inform solutions, even though local governments are pretty limited in the regulation of firearms.

“There’s a line between regulation – we’re not allowed to prohibit sale of certain guns, for example – and requirements for doing business. And presumably once we identify more of the problem, then we’ll be able to ask questions about which of the solutions are within our authority,” Constantine said.

The health department will study youth involvement with firearms, looking for trends and publishing a quarterly report. They’ll also collect information to better understand who owns and uses guns, as well as who sells them.

Constantine says that could help shape public education efforts. The county might also have some leverage over gun retailers – it could nudge them to put gun safes and trigger locks front and center in their stores, for example.

Constantine did not propose any new funding for the effort, but said preventing gun violence is, in the long run, a money-saver.