Editorial note: This is our third blog post dedicated to explaining data releases about firearm deaths and injuries in King County and Seattle. You can access our firearm injury data products here. Previous posts focused on firearm homicide and firearm suicide.
Firearm injuries are a substantial public health issue for our community, causing preventable suffering and trauma that can have costly and long-lasting effects. Now, new data are available that quantify the problem of non-fatal firearm injuries that required hospitalization of King County residents.
These data represent people who were admitted to the hospital with non-fatal injuries, not people treated at the scene, released from the emergency department, or otherwise not hospitalized.
Here are a few key takeaways about nonfatal firearm injury hospitalizations in King County:
- Between 2016 and 2017, there were 298 hospitalizations for firearm injuries. The rate of hospitalization was 6.9 per 100,000 King County residents.
- In 2016/2017, the number of King County residents who were hospitalized for firearm injuries is about the same as the number of people who died from firearm injuries.
- 46% of non-fatal injury hospitalizations were unintentional injuries, another 40% were injuries from assault, and 8% were intentionally self-inflicted. For the remaining 7%, the intent couldn’t be determined. Note, the percent of hospitalizations for self-inflicted injury by firearm is low because most people who intentionally shoot themselves die.
There are disparities in who is impacted by firearm injuries:
- Boys and men experience more nonfatal injuries from firearms than girls and women.
- Young adults 18 to 24 experience a significantly higher rate of nonfatal firearm injuries (19.2 per 100,000) than the county average and higher than any other age group.
- Adults between 25 and 44 also have a firearm injury hospitalization rate above the county average (10.4 per 100,000).
- There is a higher rate of nonfatal firearm injury hospitalizations among residents in high-poverty neighborhoods (15.2 per 100,000) and a lower rate in low-poverty neighborhoods (2.9 per 100,000).
- The impact of firearm injuries is greatest in south King County (11.1 per 100,000) and lowest in east King County (2.4 per 100,000).
The story behind the disparities:
Trauma from firearm injuries takes a toll on individuals and their families and communities. Local research shows that people injured by firearms are at elevated risk of being shot again, shooting someone else, or being arrested for firearm misuse. Medical costs and lost productivity from nonfatal shootings are estimated to cost about $18 million in King County per year. Neighborhood violence can affect property values and business investment, reduce neighborhood cohesion and trust, and affect young people’s mental health and well being.
In early 2020, Public Health’s report on young people’s experiences with firearm violence, based upon conversations with community partners, young people affected by firearm violence, and their families, will be released. Be sure to look out for this report to hear young people’s stories of how this has affected them and how they want the problem to be solved.
Aside from injuries from violence, unintentional injuries make up nearly half of nonfatal firearm injuries resulting in hospitalization. Adults between 18 and 44 and residents of high-poverty neighborhoods have non-fatal firearm injury hospitalization rates above the county average, and these injuries can cause long-term health problems. While our hospitalization data do not provide more information about how these injuries occurred, they underscore the importance of promoting safety practices for firearm owners and users in addition to preventing violence.
Stop the Bleed Program:
In case of a firearm injury, a person’s life can be saved. Harborview Medical Center’s Stop the Bleed program aims to empower first responders and community members to save a life in a bleeding emergency, including after a gunshot wound. “Every member of the community should be trained in the basic skills for bleeding control and we need to make sure that bleeding control supplies and equipment are available in public places. When someone is bleeding rapidly, minutes matter, and you can make a real difference,” said Eileen Bulger, MD, Professor of Surgery & Chief of Trauma, Harborview Medical Center. Follow the for more information about Stop the Bleed and how to set up a training in your workplace or community.
What makes a difference?
Our public health approach to gun violence is a framework that allows us to
- understand how and why firearms are used unsafely, including collecting and analyzing data
- raise public awareness of firearm safety practices, and
- develop and evaluate upstream, evidence-based prevention programs in partnership with community stakeholders.
Preventing firearm injury includes assuring firearms are stored securely, away from children and unauthorized people. In some places, it’s required by law. Public Health’s Lock It Up program promotes voluntary safe firearm storage in partnership with law enforcement agencies, ranges, and retail partners, who give a discount on storage devices to customers who mention the program.
A local network of government agencies, service providers, and community advocates is working to reduce interpersonal violence and firearm misuse among our youth and young adults, who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. In 2020, Public Health will release a report on what the adult and youth leaders of this work and their program participants think about the problem and their proposed solutions.
For more information:
Review our injury prevention team’s latest data about nonfatal firearm-related injuries in Seattle and King County to see more detail on this analysis of hospitalizations for nonfatal firearm injuries. This data visualization tool provides data by location and demographics, and we hope that it will help community and Public Health as we work together to prevent gun violence.