UW study: Gun victims more likely to be shot again

SEATTLE — People hospitalized with a gunshot wound are 30 times more likely to come back to the hospital with another firearm injury than those hospitalized for another medical reason, according to a new study from the University of Washington.

Gunshot victims also are twice as likely to be arrested for future violent or firearm-related crime, according to a study by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Washington.

Although the main conclusion of the study commissioned last year by the Seattle City Council is a correlation between gunshot wounds and future gun violence, the study also shows that mental illness does not have as strong a correlation with gun violence as previous firearm-related hospitalizations.

The research presents some ideas for next steps including treating firearms injuries as a public health problem to prevent future shootings, according to Dr. Frederick Rivara, a UW professor and medical researcher at Harborview.

“We have to view them as preventable,” Rivara said.

The researchers looked at medical records for the 222 people who were hospitalized for firearm related injuries in King County during 2006-07, and then went forward in time through 2012 to draw their conclusions.

Prevention of future shootings will require a combination of approaches including psychiatric treatment and community services, Rivara said. Representatives from public health, criminal justice, police, social workers, physicians and social workers will need to work together, he said.

“I know access to guns is one issue,” Rivara said. “We also need to view these as key moments in individual people’s lives.”

He said he’d like to see the model pioneered in Seattle to help people with drinking problems inspire the collection of services designed to prevent future gun violence. There won’t be one answer to the question: What leads to gun violence and how can it be prevented, Rivara said.

The study showed a strong correlation between gun-shot related hospitalizations and a host of problems after leaving the hospital, including more hospitalizations and more crime.

The results were presented Monday to the Seattle City Council.

“Data from this study resoundingly confirms proactive interventions can prevent subsequent gun injuries and crime,” Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, said in a statement. “What we are asking to do is to help people and not infringe on an individual’s Second Amendment rights.”

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