Research and outreach from Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center are cited in a new Seattle ordinance, signed into law Wednesday by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, which imposes civil penalties on firearm owners who don’t lock up their guns.
The legislation cites prior research from HIPRC that found safe storage of firearms reduces accidental firearm injuries and suicides among youth by 73 percent. Safe storage is defined as storing guns locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. A study by HIPRC researchers earlier this year also found that 63 percent of gun-owning homes in Washington do not safely store their firearms under this definition.
At the press conference announcing the legislation when it was first proposed in March, core member Fred Rivara, M.D., MPH, spoke from his experience as a pediatrician and public health researcher.
“Time and time again we see young children getting access to guns who do not understand the consequences of an accidental discharge, or adolescents after suicide attempts with a parent’s unsecured gun,” he said. “The data supporting safe storage of guns is really overwhelming.”
Safe storage giveaways conducted by HIPRC in conjunction with Seattle Children’s Hospital, Public Health-Seattle & King County, and other community partners, are also cited in the legislation. The giveaways have distributed more than 4,000 lock boxes to the public across Washington state.
“We know that safe storage is an effective way to help prevent firearm injuries for children, adolescents and people who are at-risk for suicide,” said HIPRC Director Monica Vavilala, M.D. “Safe firearm storage makes families and communities safer. The safe storage giveaways throughout Washington state encourage good practices by not only providing equipment, but training and other resources as well.”
The new ordinance is intended to encourage firearm owners to control and safely store their guns. An owner who does not store their firearms locked when they or another authorized user aren’t carrying them could face fines up to $500. If a minor, at-risk person or prohibited user obtains the firearm, and the owner reasonably knew they were likely to gain access, the penalty can go as high as $1,000. If the minor, at-risk person or prohibited person goes on to cause an injury or death or commit a crime with the weapon, the maximum penalty is $10,000.
The legislation was passed unanimously by Seattle City Council early this month and will go into effect in January. A SCH/HIPRC/SKCPH Gun Lock Box Giveaway event will also be held on Dec. 15 at Seattle’s Outdoor Emporium with Seattle Children’s Hospital, HIPRCS, and Public Health – Seattle & King County, more details forthcoming.