State funds firearm injury and policy research program

Efforts will measure effectiveness of approaches to reducing gun violence, and gather data on risk factors.

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

The State of Washington has awarded $1 million to the University of Washington School of Medicine for the formation of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. HIPRC and Sen. David Frockt, of Seattlee’s 46th legislative district, announced  the award today, July 26, at a Harborview press conference..

The program will be led by experienced firearm researchers Dr. Fred Rivara, program director, and Dr. Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, co-director. Rivara is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health. Rowhani-Rahbar is 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.

Valvilala Frockt
Harborview's Dr. Monica Vavilala with Sen. David Frockt at July 26 press conference. 

Firearms play a major role in Washington suicides and intimate partner violence. In 2017, 75.3 percent of firearm deaths in Washington were suicides; by comparison, nationally about  60 percent of firearm deaths are suicides, 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.  Frockt was instrumental in initiating the funding request and supporting the addition to the state budget.

At today’s announcement, Frockt said this funding is an important first step for the state in taking a leadership role in addressing firearm injuries and gun violence The funding is intended 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.” At the press conference, HIPRC leaders expressed their thanks to Frockt for his legislative efforts on behalf of this reseach program. 

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

To learn more, visit the program website at

Written by Kelsie Cleboski of the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center.

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