JuNE Updates
We May Feel Helpless, But We Are Not
By Fred Rivara, MD, MPH

As physicians, all of us feel saddened, helpless, and angry when we hear about the latest mass shooting in the US. We are angry about the injustice, whether it be because the victims are innocent children, because the attack was racist, or just because it happened.

It is important to understand that mass shootings are a very small fraction of the deaths from firearms in the US. On May 29, 2022, The New York Times (NYT) reported that 1500 people have died from mass shootings since 2009. What it did not report was that during this same period of time, 475,627 people lost their lives due to firearms. In other words, mass shootings, as counted by the NYT, accounted for 0.3% of firearm deaths. In the US as a whole, about 60% of firearm deaths are suicides; in the state of Washington, as in most western states, it is three-quarters. Unfortunately, there are no accurate data on the number of non-fatal firearm injuries treated in our Emergency Departments and hospitals each year, but there are likely tens of thousands more.

Clearly, firearm injuries and deaths are a major health problem. There are a number of actions that physicians can take to prevent firearm deaths. Washington is one of 19 states and the District of Columbia that has “Extreme Risk Protection Orders” (ERPOs) or so-called “Red-flag laws.”

These laws allow family members, household members, co-parents, and police to petition the courts to both remove any existing firearms and prevent the purchase of firearms by an individual who exhibits behavior indicating they may be at risk of harming themselves or others. They are court orders that last for one year or until the crisis has passed. 

While physicians in our state cannot file a petition themselves, they can advise family members of this law and make a police report. These orders can be life-saving when an individual is suicidal or homicidal. 

Unfortunately, approximately three-fourths of physicians in Washington are not familiar with these laws, and even fewer have ever counseled families about them.

Washington is also one of a handful of states that have a “Do Not Sell” law, in which an individual can voluntarily register with the county clerk as someone who should not be allowed to purchase a firearm. For individuals with recurrent severe depression, this law makes a great deal of sense and can prevent suicide.  

Safe storage of firearms is essential to protect members of the household. The Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center studies indicate that proper storage of firearms can reduce the risk of accidental shootings by children and suicide by adolescents by as much as 80%. 

However, if the household member who is suicidal is also the firearm owner, such in-home storage of firearms is likely not safe, and voluntary out-of-home storage should be considered. The Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program at the University of Washington has created a map (below) that shows locations across the state of gun ranges, firearm dealers, and police stations which will accept firearms to be stored temporarily during times of crises for owners.

It is important to remember that individuals who attempt suicide with a firearm will die 90% of the time, compared with only 2-3% of those who ingest drugs. People who survive a suicide attempt nearly all go on to live full lives and do not subsequently die in another suicide attempt. 

Unfortunately, if the first suicide attempt is with a firearm, there will not be a second chance at life.

Finally, it is also important for us as physicians to remember that we are citizens of the state and should make ourselves knowledgeable about policies and legislation that come before our state legislators and our members of Congress. 

There is a great deal of evidence that states that place common-sense restrictions on firearm ownership have lower rates of firearm suicide and homicide deaths than states without many restrictions.  

We may feel helpless with these waves of firearm deaths, but in fact, we are not. We can help our patients and help our communities to be safe and to preserve life.

Frederick P. Rivara, MD, MPH
Professor of Pediatrics, UW Medicine
Adjunct Professor of Epidemiology, UW School of Public Health
Director, Firearm Injury and Policy Research Program, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. Dr. Rivara has more than 30 years of experience researching injury prevention.
Firearm Safe Storage Map
Dr. Rivara's Response to the Texas Shooting



By Dr. Daniel Low, KCMS Vice President
“I’ve never had a doctor ask,” he quipped. “Well, taxes are important, Mr. Jones,” I chuckled. Like many others, Mr. Jones had recently summoned the courage to come to his first clinic visit in nearly two years, previously avoiding the medical establishment as COVID-19 raged across the country. With so much time between our last visits, he was expecting questions about his diabetes management and colon cancer screening (which we covered), but whether he needed help filing taxes? That was not what he was expecting.

Yet, as COVID-19 spurs us to reimagine what health care could look like, we need to start envisioning health centers as more than just places to treat disease; we need our health centers to promote wellness, and that means helping secure financial wellness too.

Read Dr. Low's Full Article Published in the South Seattle Emerald



The 2022 Virtual Delegate Council Meetings*
  • Wed, June 22nd, 6 - 8 p.m. (virtual)
  • Wed, Aug 31st, 6 - 8 p.m. (in person)
  • WSMA 2022 Annual Meeting, October 1st & 2nd, 2022
*No requirement to attend all meetings
KCMS pursues its legislative efforts with the help of its lobbyist, James Paribello.
Contact: Shurlon Brathwaite Sbrath@kcmsociety.org w/questions or to indicate interest.

Advance registration is required. Masks encouraged.

To Register & Find Out More
King County Medical Society is hosting the Excellence in Medicine Awards Ceremony to recognize the outstanding contributions of physicians, administrators, staff, and legislators. This event will be held in the Fall of 2022, assuming Covid restrictions allow.
The Award Selection Committee will review all submitted nominations. Please, click below to submit your nominations for any and all categories! The survey will take ~5 minutes.
Nomination Survey for Excellence In Medicine Awards

ABP Sponsor Webinar

ABP is sponsoring a webinar where Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Envision Physician Services, and Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics will share their behavioral mental health work. The ABP’s President & CEO, Judy Schaechter, MD, MBA, will also present a CEO report. There will also be an optional Physician Attestation Planning.
June 15th 9am-10:30am  Optional Session: 11:30am - 12:30pm
Registration for Webinar

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