June 2021 - News from the Washington State Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention

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JUNE 1, 2021

News from the Washington State Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention

Thank you for your interest in gun violence prevention and intervention efforts in communities across our state.


In 2020 the Washington State Legislature passed legislation mandating the creation of a program to provide state-level coordination, training and technical assistance, and funding to support communities in implementing proven firearm violence intervention and prevention strategies.

In March of this year the Department of Commerce officially launched the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention (OFSVP).  Our mission is to serve the Washington communities, agencies and organizations who are on the ground helping impacted families and neighborhoods. Our specific focus is on community gun violence - sometimes called urban gun violence - which has a dramatically disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color. We are committed to using a data-driven approach for identifying communities experiencing higher rates of firearm injuries and homicides and working with those communities to coordinate and implement evidence-based intervention and prevention strategies. 

This program has generated a high level of interest and we’ve appreciated all who have reached out to us, or kindly responded when we’ve reached out to you, to share your expertise and experiences. What a privilege it is to lead this office and work with community leaders, families, legislators and our other stakeholders as we strive to reduce the causes and incidences of community gun violence throughout our state.

Here are some things that have been happening since we launched.

Federal developments

In a detailed statement released in April, the Biden Administration laid out strong support for and “historic investments in” community violence intervention to combat gun violence. Attorney General Merrick Garland also included Justice Department support for these programs in a May 26 memo to agency staff on handling a rise in violent crime.

To enable this investment, the administration has adjusted federal grant guidance and in some cases given funding priorities for community violence prevention efforts under many existing funding programs across a range of federal agencies including:

  • U.S. Department of Justice -  Byrne-JAG grants, Second Chance Act grants, VOCA/Office of Victims of Crimes, Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention and Reduction Program, Strategies to Support Children Exposed to Violence
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services -  Medicaid, Youth Violence Prevention Centers
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - Community Development Block Grants, Choice Neighborhoods Initiative
  • U.S. Department of Education - 21st Century Learning Centers, Student Support and Academic Enrichment
  • U.S. Department of Labor - Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Young Adult Reentry Partnership

In addition, the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law in March directs flexible federal aid and relief directly to states, cities, and counties and these funds are available to respond to gun violence that spiked during the pandemic. Click here for more information. 

Finally, the Jobs Plan proposed by the Biden Administration contains “$5 billion over eight years in support of evidence-based community violence prevention programs.” Learn more by clicking here.

We are working to determine how we can best position OFSVP and support our Washington communities to benefit from the emerging, strong federal support for community violence intervention efforts.

States across the nation

Washington is among a handful of states in the nation with state-level firearm violence prevention and intervention programs. Colorado is considering a bill, HB21-1299, to create a similar gun violence prevention office there. Here is the link to a story from May 8 that touches on Washington’s office.

OFSVP is participating in an effort to schedule a first-ever gathering of the leaders from these state offices to compare best practices and coordinate our national efforts, all in an effort to better help our communities. We’ll share more details of this collaboration in the coming weeks.

On the research front

A recent study led by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center tested the effectiveness of a hospital- and community-based low-intensity intervention designed to promote the health and well-being of gunshot wound victims. The study, which is published here, has been presented in conferences by Dr. Vivian H. Lyons.

On the other side of our state, Gonzaga University professor Dr. Angela Bruns is part of a team evaluating the impact of gun violence on adolescents. You can read more about Dr. Bruns’ ongoing project here 

National resources

On February 25, the Council on Criminal Justice welcomed experts from the front lines of focused deterrence, street outreach, and hospital-based violence prevention across the nation to discuss how community approaches can address the recent spike in homicides, and how COVID-19 has changed their work. Learn more and watch a video of the panel discussion here.

If you have thoughts about how we can be successful in fulfilling the mission of the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention, or if you have questions about our work, please reach out.

Kate Kelly


Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention


Phone: (360) 628-6846

If you know of others who may be interested in updates from our office please share this newsletter and encourage them to sign up for email updates here.