House passage of Senate Bill 6288 today will make Washington the first state in the nation with a dedicated office to collect statewide data on firearm violence, make the data available for public health research, and fund innovative prevention programs in local communities.
“This bill is about understanding where violence occurs in our communities and how we can address it.,” said Sen. Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond), the bill’s sponsor. “We don’t need to wait until shots have been fired — we need to intervene to prevent violence before it happens.”
SB 6288 would establish the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, which would work with law enforcement agencies and others to collect and centralize data on firearm violence, including suicide.
In addition, the office would administer the Washington Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program, a competitive process to fund evidence-based initiatives undertaken by cities and community-based organizations in Washington.
The office will also publish a guide to best practices for therapy for firearm violence victims as well as establish and staff a statewide helpline, counseling and referral service for survivors of firearm violence, their families and friends, and professionals.
These mental health treatment measures in SB 6288 were developed by Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and proposed earlier this year in SB 6553, which did not pass the Senate.
“The effects of firearm violence on survivors’ mental health can be devastating and long-lasting. We as a state, as a community, need to be doing all that we can to help survivors deal with the trauma, and that’s what this legislation will do,” said Frockt.
The office’s approach is modeled on King County’s Shots Fired project. Every year, 155 King County residents die from gunshots and another 150 are hospitalized, according to a report from the project presented at a work session of the Senate Law & Justice Committee last fall. This violence can cause lifelong trauma for survivors. The Shots Fired project applies a public health approach to firearm violence, with an emphasis on early intervention and prevention. SB 6288 applies the approach statewide.
“In the Legislature, we have been taking meaningful steps to transform our criminal justice system from a crisis response model to an early intervention and prevention model,” Dhingra said. “This bill is an important addition to that work.”
Having passed the House by a vote of 53-44 with a technical amendment, SB 6288 now returns to the Senate for a vote of concurrence.