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King County examines gun violence trends

Nearly 77 percent of shooting victims so far this year in county have been people of color.

Non-fatal shootings in King County are higher in the first half of 2019 when compared to the same time period last year, and are 12 percent higher than the three-year average.

After declining between 2007 and 2010, firearm homicide rates increased again by 2016 to reach the 2000 baseline. At the same time, suicide rates have held steady in the county between 2000 and 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, there were an average of 106 suicides and 37 murders that involved firearms in King County.

Data from both the King County Pprosecutor’s Office and Public Health were shared at a meeting on June 25 as members of the Law and Justice Committee tried to get a clearer picture of gun violence in King County. Dan Carew with the prosecutor’s office said that between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2019, there had been a 35 percent increase in non-fatal shootings compared to the same period in 2018. Firearms homicides remained roughly the same.

Nearly half of all shooting victims were younger than 25, and so far this year, some 77 percent of victims in King County were people of color. Additionally, 85 percent of shooting victims have been male. During that time period, there were 341 total shots fired.

These numbers do not include several high-profile local shootings that have come since May 31, including two that happened on June 23 in Bellevue.

Firearm shooting incidents have generally been moving farther south into communities in South King County — and North Highline, Burien and Kent had the highest rates of firearms homicides. Around one-third of guns used in any type of shooting incidents have been linked to other shootings, Carew said.

Myduc Ta with Public Health said their data showed that between 2012 and 2016, black residents in the county are 15 times more likely to be homicide victims than white residents. Black residents experienced homicides at a rate of 12.5 per 100,000 people, with the next highest demographic being Hispanic residents at 1.9 per 100,000. Additionally, high poverty neighborhoods, as defined by 20 percent or more households living below the poverty threshold, had a homicide rate of 3.2 per 100,000, much higher than low poverty neighborhoods at 0.6.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives were at a greater risk of firearm suicide when compared to other groups. Between 2012 and 2016, American Indians and Alaskan Natives had a firearm suicide rate of around 9.7 per 100,000. White residents were the next most at-risk group at a rate of 6 per 100,000 while the countywide rate was 4.9 per 100,000.

Along with collecting information on gun violence, the county is also engaging in information campaigns to encourage people to store their guns in lockers. Under state law that was passed last November, gun owners can be held criminally liable if their firearms are used to commit a crime. The initiative, I-1639, also prescribed other restrictions and requirements for owning semi-automatic rifles like AR-15s.

The county’s push to gather information comes as other state and local officials explore ways to reduce gun violence. The Washington Legislature passed laws barring 3D printed gun parts known as “ghost guns” this year. State legislators additionally tightened firearms restrictions surrounding domestic violence, allowing police to confiscate guns if an arrest is made during a domestic violence call.


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