Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention

Strong communities are safe communities. Housed within the Community Services and Housing Division of the Department of Commerce, the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention (OFSVP) is dedicated to implementing evidence-based policies, strategies and interventions in communities across Washington with a goal of better understanding and reducing firearm violence. 

OFSVP works hand-in-hand with policymakers, public health officials, government entities, law enforcement agencies, researchers, community organizations and individual community members. We prioritize investment in underserved, historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, building violence prevention and intervention capacity through engagement, outreach and technical assistance, and using data validated by our community partners to inform funding decisions.

The Legislature created OFSVP in 2020 (Ch. 43.330A RCW). The responsibilities of the office include:

  • Creating and maintaining a network of community intervention and reduction programs across the state
  • Developing best practice guidance and providing technical assistance
  • Convening gatherings and training to bring together state and national experts and community participants
  • Identifying and improving upon available data sources, data collection methods and data-sharing mechanisms
  • Identifying and administering state, federal and private funding for a grant program focused on reducing firearm violence in communities
  • Issuing a bi-annual report and policy recommendations to policymakers

A data-driven approach to reducing gun violence

Data is crucial for communities, researchers and policymakers to understand and mitigate firearm violence. Robust data can provide a foundation for improving evidence-based policymaking. Setting out the data responsibilities of OFSVP, the Legislature directed Commerce to:

Work with law enforcement agencies, county prosecutors, researchers, and public health agencies throughout the state to identify and improve upon available data sources, data collection methods, and data-sharing mechanisms; and

Identify gaps in available data needed for ongoing analysis, policy development, and the implementation of evidence-based firearm violence intervention and prevention strategies.

OFSVP has partnered with researchers from the University of Washington Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program to compile an inventory and descriptions of existing sources of Washington firearms-related data. The inventory identifies 31 data sources in three main categories: health and healthcare, criminal justice, and firearm-related licensing and sales data.

The owners and users of these data systems were then engaged to identify steps to improve access to and the usefulness of data collected. The resulting recommendations must recognize existing sensitivities surrounding the data, including health, law enforcement or other confidentialities. At the same time, we must be able to flag avoidable or outdated restrictions on data collection and sharing and adopt measures to de-identify the data to make it more accessible in aggregate, including bridging barriers created by the traditional functional boundaries of local and state agencies.

Through this early work, we have learned that — while many public health and public safety agencies track data related to firearms, firearm-related injuries and fatalities, and violent crime — that data is often collected and only accessible in silos.

Moving forward, OFSVP will continue these efforts to explore and identify steps to improve the availability and quality of firearm data in Washington through information collection and data sharing.

Emerging national opportunities

In a detailed statement released in April 2021, the Biden Administration laid out strong support for and “historic investments in” community intervention to combat gun violence. To enable this investment, the administration has adjusted federal guidance for many existing funding programs, including expressly allowing American Rescue Plan funds to be used by states and communities to respond to gun violence that spiked during the pandemic.

Renewed focus on firearm data and research at the federal level has been another encouraging development. Specifically, researchers can analyze previously unexplored or isolated public health and public safety datasets to understand better the unique dynamics of fatal and non-fatal shootings and firearm-related crimes.

Moving forward, OFSVP will continue collaborating with other states, the Washington congressional delegation and the Biden administration to work toward continued federal support for firearm violence data collection and research and continued funding for community violence intervention efforts. We will also help educate our communities about emerging federal opportunities.

Mapping community gun violence

Reducing community gun violence requires different policies and strategies than other forms of gun violence such as suicide or domestic violence. Data is crucial for helping identify which communities are experiencing higher rates of homicides. The office will work with those communities to coordinate and help implement evidence-based prevention strategies.

Firearm homicide heat map
This heat map shows where there is a higher concentration of firearm-related homicides in Washington (based on the residence of the victim). Data from 2016-2020. Source: Washington Dept. of Health, Center for Health Statistics.
County of residenceNumber
King261
Pierce142
Yakima109
Snohomish62
Spokane42
Clark41
Thurston26
Benton19
Grant15
Kitsap14
Cowlitz12
Grays Harbor12
Skagit11
Lewis10
Table 1: Firearm Homicide by county of residence from 2016 to 2020. Includes counties with 10+ cases from 2016 to 2020 (last updated September 6, 2021).

Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention

Resources

Contact

Kate Kelly
Executive Director
Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention
kate.kelly@commerce.wa.gov
360-628-6846

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Public Safety Programs

OFSVP Advisory Committee Members

Sarah Augustine, Dispute Resolution centers and Walk about Yakima

Devitta Briscoe, gun violence prevention activist, member of the Everytown Survivor Network

Dan Carew, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Julia Cappio, Leader, Students Demand Action

Gregory Engel, MD, Board Member,  Washington CeaseFire

Renee Hopkins, CEO, Alliance for Gun Responsibility

Brianna Mills, MA, PhD – Research Core Associate Director, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center, Clinical Assistant Professor, Dept. of Epidemiology, University of Washington

Deepika Nehra, MD – Associate Program Director, Trauma/Surgical Critical Care Fellowship, Associate Faculty Member, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center

Melanie-Angela Neuilly, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Criminal Justice and Criminology, Washington State University

Donitta Sinclair, gun violence prevention activist, community member

Steve Strachan, Executive Director, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs

Cheryl Stumbo , Manager of the Everytown Survivor Network, survivor of the 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation shooting

Sarah Sumadi, Associate Regional Director, Everytown for Gun Safety

Eric Trupin, Ph.D., Psychologist and Professor of University of Washington Psychiatry and Behavioral Science