Washington funds program to research firearm injury and policy

Washington funds program to research firearm injury and policy

By: Administrator Date: July 26th, 2019
Inaugural Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program Director Fred Rivara, M.D., MPH, speaks to the media at a press event announcing the program.

A new program at UW Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center (HIPRC) seeks to answer urgent questions around firearm risks, injuries, policies and programs in Washington state.

Washington has awarded $1 million to the University of Washington School of Medicine for the formation of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program, HIPRC announced today with Sen. David Frockt. The program will be led by experienced firearm researchers Dr. Fred Rivara, program director, professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health, and Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, program co-director, the UW Bartley Dobb Professor for the Study and Prevention of Violence, associate professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health and adjunct associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“Scientifically rigorous research is key to reducing firearm injuries and deaths while still protecting Second Amendment rights,” said Rivara. “We know that some of our most vulnerable people are at the greatest risk of firearm injury, including children, adolescents, low-income families, racial minorities, and victims of domestic violence. Collaboration with community and government partners is critical to addressing these preventable tragedies.”

Overall, gun violence costs Washington an estimated $3.8 billion annually, according to a report by The Giffords Law Center, and firearms play a major role in Washington suicides and intimate partner violence. In 2017, 75.3 percent of firearm deaths in Washington were suicides compared to about 60 percent of firearm deaths nationally, based on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research examining intimate partner homicides in Washington found that 47 percent involved a firearm.

Money for the program comes from Washington’s general fund, and Frockt was instrumental in initiating the funding request and supporting the addition to the state budget.

At the announcement, Frockt said the funding is an important first step for the state to take a leadership role in addressing firearm injuries and gun violence. The intention of the funding is to support investigations into firearm death and injury risk factors, evaluate the efficacy of state firearm laws, assess the consequences of firearm violence and build strategies to reduce firearm injuries.

 “What’s really important is how we should be thinking about this problem as a public health issue,” he said. “It was very important for Washington state to do what we could.”

HIPRC has a three decades-long history of studying firearm injuries, with researchers conducting pivotal studies on access to firearms in the home, safe firearm storage practices and promotion, and assessing lethal means availability for patients evaluated in emergency departments. Current projects include research to evaluate the effectiveness of extreme risk protection orders, interventions to reduce firearm injury recidivism, the characterization of firearm suicides, and the effectiveness of permit to purchase laws and domestic violence protection orders requiring firearm relinquishment.

To learn more, visit the program website at www.hiprc.org/firearm.