July 22, 2019 Blog

Gun Violence Prevention Summit

Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General and former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), famously asked, “If [gun violence] is NOT a public health issue, why do people keep dying from it?”

Gun violence is a public health crisis. Like all public health issues, it affects all of us. And like other public health crises, it will require a multi-faceted effort to solve it. Just like stakeholders came together to address injuries and deaths from automobiles and the tobacco industry, our best chance to prevent gun violence is to use comprehensive, evidence-based approaches to protect all impacted communities.

The King County Board of Health has embraced this philosophy and recently hosted a three day summit to discuss taking a public health approach to addressing gun violence. The first two days of the summit took place in White Center and welcomed a diverse crowd, including many people living at the epicenter of gun violence in South King County.

On the first night, three amazing panels spoke to the personal nature of gun violence. The first panel featured survivors who had lost loved ones in mass shootings, homicides, and firearm suicides. These survivors live with the trauma of gun violence every day and drove home the point that victims of gun violence are not only those that have been struck by bullets.

The second panel focused on youth, especially in black and brown communities, who are disproportionately the victims and perpetrators of gun violence. These experts work in the community to disrupt the cycle of gun violence.

  • Ayanle Ismail, Bridging Cultural Gaps
  • Dominique Davis, Community Passageways
  • Durell Green, Choose 180
  • Jimmy Brown, Ambition is Priceless
  • Kendrick Glover, Glover Empower Mentoring

The final panel of health experts talked about community violence in King County and the role our health care systems can play in addressing it:

  • Jeff Duchin, M.D., King County Public Health
  • Jessica McDade, M.D ., Seattle Children’s Hospital
  • Winona Hollins-Hauge, M.S.W., Winona Counseling and Consulting

The second night of hearings had more of a data-driven focus. The first panel included:

  • Tony Gomez, Public Health – Seattle & King County
  • Fred Rivara, M.D., Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center
  • Dan Carew, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

The second panel dove into the intersection of gun violence and suicide. Roughly 75 percent of gun fatalities in Washington are suicide – well above the national average. This panel featured:

  • Ashley McGirt, M.S.W., Ashley McGirt Counseling Services
  • Ray Miller, Vets Place Northwest
  • Sandra Shanahan, Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit

The final panel of the evening featured organizations working throughout Washington to reduce gun violence and included our own Renee Hopkins along with representatives from:

  • Moms Demand Action – Washington
  • Mothers for Police Accountability
  • March for our Lives Washington

The summit concluded on the third day at the Board of Health’s regularly scheduled meeting on July 18 in Seattle. The board reviewed the previous two days of testimony and heard from a panel of attendees including the Alliance’s Program Director, Brandy Grant, Ashely McGirt, and Ayanle Ismail. The panel focused on next steps that  community members and the King County Board of Health can take right now to help reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods.

Their message? There are already innovative and effective groups working to reduce gun violence in our communities, they need meaningful funding and support from our policymakers to continue and expand their efforts and they need a seat at the decision-making table.

Not a policymaker? Don’t worry, there’s still plenty you can do to help prevent gun violence.

–Maureen McGregor is the Strategic Engagement Director at the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.