Drug deaths v. Gun deaths: What’s really the trouble in King County, WA?

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The Seattle Times and other local news agencies are reporting that 415 King County residents died in 2018 from “drug or alcohol abuse,” which far exceeds the number of people murdered with firearms, so which is the greater problem?

About eight times as many people died last year from drug and alcohol abuse than from gunshot wounds in King County, Washington. (Screen snip, YouTube, DNews)

Hint: No billionaire-backed organization based in Seattle ran a multi-million-dollar initiative campaign last year to control drugs, but they spent more than $5 million on a gun control measure that now has Evergreen State gun owners, many sheriffs and some local governments fighting back.

Earlier this year, the Seattle Times reported, “Fifty-five of 78 homicide victims killed in King County last year died from gunshot wounds.”

Do the math. Roughly eight times as many people died last year from drug and alcohol use than died from being shot, but officials in the county, including those in Seattle, apparently think guns are a bigger problem?

While Initiative 1639, passed overwhelmingly among voters in the newspaper’s circulation area of Seattle and King County, along with smaller margins in about ten other counties, was about regulating so-called “semiautomatic assault rifles,” historically rifles of any kind have been used in a fraction of homicides in the state. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available in the FBI Uniform Crime Report, only one murder in the entire state of Washington was confirmed to involve a rifle. There were 57 slayings in which the type of gun was not identified, so possibly a couple of those might have been rifle-related.
However, traditionally, rifles account for about 2-3% of all slayings nationwide in any given year. That pattern holds true in Washington State.

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Provisions of the initiative, which took full effect July 1, are being challenged in federal court by the Second Amendment Foundation and National Rifle Association.

The Times also reported earlier that in 2017, King County recorded 74 slayings and that was up from the 66 logged the previous year.

On the other hand, 2017 saw 379 deaths from alcohol or drug abuse, according to a report from Public Health – Seattle & King County, that was used as the basis of the drug death story.

While officials in Seattle have been keen on the idea of creating a “safe injection site” for drug users, legally-armed, law-abiding private citizens are looked upon far less cordially. Seattle officials have pursued a strictly anti-gun agenda for several years, adopting a “gun violence tax” that has been a decided failure in raising the anticipated revenues while preventing an increase in violence. They adopted a so-called “safe storage” requirement that critics contend violates the state preemption statute. They tried unsuccessfully to ban firearms in city park facilities and were sued by gun rights organizations under the same preemption law.

And adding to their angst is an updated report from the state Department of Licensing that shows nearly 20 percent of all the active concealed pistol licenses in the state are held by men and women living in King County. Maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe people are concerned about being victimized by someone looking to finance their next fix.

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