REPORT: Washington’s Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention emerging as national leader in evidence-based, community-supported strategies

2023 Legislative Report details progress, recommendations, next steps in addressing gun violence in Washington communities

OLYMPIA, WA — Firearm violence is a persistent health and safety threat for communities and families in Washington state, where a person is killed with a gun every 12 hours (Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention Dashboard). These deaths and injuries are preventable.

Three years into its work to support and coordinate the implementation of firearm violence intervention and prevention strategies across the state, Washington’s Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention (OFSVP) in the state Department of Commerce is emerging as a national leader.

Since the OFSVP launched in March 2021, increased attention from policymakers at the state and federal level have boosted support for violence reduction research and initiatives. A summary of efforts to date, recommendations and next steps are detailed in the OFSVP’s recent bi-annual report to the state Legislature.

As outlined in the report, the work of OFSVP and the ability to leverage this statewide office have benefitted greatly from increased research and data collection, federal funding opportunities, and support from Gov. Inslee and the state legislature. This confluence of factors has strengthened Washington’s ability to measure the effectiveness of violence reduction strategies and best direct investments toward all manner of gun violence – suicides, domestic violence, community violence – impact families and communities across the state.

“Broad outreach and community input are essential to building the partnerships that strengthen communities, making them safer for families and individuals,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong.  “The Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention will continue to engage community organizations, civic leaders and impacted community members from across the state to understand local needs and deliver the tools and support necessary to achieve sustainable reductions in firearm violence.”

Accomplishments detailed in the new report include significant investment in violence reduction strategies in communities across the state, such as:

  • Community firearm violence intervention and prevention strategies – Community gun violence is a very particular problem with very particular solutions. The OFSVP has invested significant support in community firearm violence planning, prevention and intervention efforts in communities across the state.
  • Safe storage – The OFSVP supported efforts to expand, leverage, and evaluate existing safe storage education and outreach, and increase collaboration with health care providers, the Veterans Administration, law enforcement, schools, firearms dealers and communities across the state.
  • Improving the implementation and enforcement of protection order laws – State and federal funding through the Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program has supported and will continue to support efforts to expand the adoption of best practices in training, policies, and outreach to advance the use of Washington’s relinquishment laws prohibiting firearm possession by individuals who present a heightened risk of harm to themselves or others.
  • Firearm-related Data Inventory and Dashboard – To improve data collection and sharing in our state, the OFSVP has worked with the University of Washington Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program to collect links to 31 state and national sources of firearm-related data, provide summaries of those sources, and describe the strengths and limitations of each.
  • Firearm Violence Data Dashboard – In 2023, OFSVP launched a dashboard analyzing available Washington-specific firearm-related information related to subjects such as homicide, suicide, hospitalization, causality, and demography. The dashboard primarily relies on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health. The dashboard – which is regularly reviewed and updated – is intended for use by policymakers, the media, advocates, researchers and other partners.

“Gun violence of any kind is tragic for families and communities,” said Kate Kelly, OFSVP Executive Director. “Our response needs to be community supported, evidence-informed and targeted to the highest-risk places and people and we appreciate the support of the Governor and lawmakers for investment in these programs.”

To support the goals of reducing firearm violence in Washington, the report offers policymakers several recommendations, including:

  • Program support. Continue to provide policy and budget support for known, effective firearm-related harm reduction strategies at the individual, household and community levels.
  • Data system integration. Take policy steps towards a comprehensive, real-time data system that gathers and connects firearm-related healthcare and criminal justice information in one source.
  • Criminal code revision. Revise the state’s criminal codes to better identify firearm-related violent crimes in criminal records by more clearly classifying existing crimes as to whether they involved a firearm.
  • Crime analyst network construction. Provide funding to support a framework for evidence-based social network analysis resources at the state level, building on successful efforts in King County and the City of Yakima.
  • Collaboration among system partners. Encourage the broader community of clinicians, public health advocates, community partners, researchers, funders and policymakers to collaboratively address firearm injuries and death.
  • Research, analysis and evaluation. Continue to support research into the causes of firearm violence in our state and the identification of the most effective intervention measures, including directing budget towards the University of Washington Firearm Injury Policy Research Program.

This list of actions is consistent with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, UW researchers and partners conducting research sponsored by the OFSVP. Visit the Commerce website to learn more about the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention and subscribe to a mailing list for periodic news and updates.


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