How are guns stored in King County homes?

Across all of King County, more than 1 in 5 adults reported keeping a gun in or around their homes, including in a car or other motor vehicle.  But where they lived made a big difference: Keeping a gun at home was least likely in Seattle neighborhoods (14%) and most likely in rural areas in east and south King County, with the highest rate (43%) in Covington / Maple Valley and Newcastle / Four Creeks.

To help gun owners protect their children and neighbors against accidental shooting, access by children, firearm suicides, and firearm theft, Public Health – Seattle & King County is partnering with firearms retailers, elected and tribal leaders, local hospitals, and law enforcement on the LOK-IT-UP safe storage initiative.

The same survey that asked about keeping guns around the home also asked how those guns were stored. In 2015 —

  • 43% of respondents with guns at home (about 150,000 people) said they stored at least one gun unlocked
  • 31% (about 105,000 people) stored at least one gun loaded
  • 15% (about 51,000 people) stored at least one gun unlocked and loaded

So we have room for improvement. While opinions are divided about gun legislation, we are united in wanting our children, families, schools, and communities to be safe.  

For more information about LOK-IT-UP, see the 10/31/2017 Public Health Insider blog; for background information about gun-violence prevention, see King County’s Gun Violence Prevention Initiative. Communities Count has just introduced two new indicators, with interpretive narrative, under the Public Safety topic: Homes with guns  and Carrying weapons at school.  These indicators, plus data on Not feeling safe at school, are also available at Public Health’s Community Health Indicators site. The LOK-IT-UP site provides information on how to get discounts on storage devices and lock boxes through December of 2018.

Live from King County, it’s interactive data!

For the first time, extensive interactive data on health and well-being in King County communities is available on Public Health’s Community Health Indicators website.  This rollout of new data coincides with the release of the 2018/2019 Community Health Needs Assessment for King County Hospitals for a Healthier Community.

Check out some of the new visualizations by clicking on the hyperlinked indicators in the bulleted text below. Once a visualization opens, you can click on the tabs above the title banner (see image above) to explore additional features.

  • Where in King County do more than 40% of households have guns? The cities/neighborhoods tab of the “firearms stored in home” maps the data to 48 sub-county geographies.
  • What proportion of King County residents have “unmet health care needs due to cost”? The summary tab displays a map that shows the range of values at the bottom, describes the data source, and reports the most recent 1-year and 5-year King County averages.
  • What’s the best predictor of a woman getting “early and adequate prenatal care” during pregnancy? In this demographics tab, bar charts compare results by mother’s age, education, race/ethnicity, and location.
  • Since legalization in 2012, how has marijuana use changed among King County adults and teens? Trend tabs show changes over time in King County, for King County regions, by race/ethnicity, and by sexual orientation (for adults).
  • How can you map “tuberculosis incidence” for people who don’t have an address? The Notes and sources tab answers this question and provides additional information and resources about the indicator.

Helpful hints: For legends (including options to select categories/groups and show/hide confidence intervals) see right margin of charts.  Hover over a colored bar, line, or map area to bring up a floating box with detailed information about the data.  Click on a bar, line, or map area to highlight that area; click anywhere else inside the chart to return to your previous view. For illustrated instructions, see this blog from Best Starts for Kids.

If you have questions or comments, please contact





Gun-related homicides: How does U.S. compare?

Shock and anger were not the only reactions to Wednesday’s massacre of nine worshippers at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina.  Although racism was surely a factor in the tragedy, President Obama called out another salient feature, one that distinguishes our country from every other developed nation in the world:  “Once again innocent people were killed because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun…. This type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced nations.”

Was the President telling the truth?  Unfortunately, yes.  In fact-checking an assertion by former U.S. Representative from Virginia Jim Moran, compared the U.S. gun-homicide rate to the rates of 22 other nations defined as “high-income” by the World Health Organization: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England and Wales), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland), and United Kingdom (Scotland).  Using data mostly from 2009, they concluded that the gun homicide rate in the USA (3.0 per 100,000 people) was 15 times the combined rate of the 22 other nations (0.2 per 100,000).

And homicides are just the tip of the iceberg.  According to, an international database comparing armed violence and gun laws across 350 jurisdictions (hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health, University of Sydney), the 2013 rate of gun deaths in the USA from all causes – intentional and unintentional – was 10.64 per 100,000.  The rate in Washington state was slightly lower (9.07 per 100,000), but substantially higher than rates in other developed countries.

The 2012 rate of firearm-related deaths in King County was 7.9 per 100,000 — low, perhaps, by U.S. standards, but almost 4 times the rate in Israel and 36 times the rate in England and Wales. Rates were even higher among King County males, Blacks, the poor, residents of South Region, and both younger (18-24 years) and older (>65 years) adults.

What about access to guns? reports that the United States has the highest rate of civilian firearm possession in the world –101.05 firearms per 100 people.  Yemen, at 54.8 per 100, is a distant second.

According to King County’s Community Health Indicators, firearms are kept in or around 1 in 4 King County homes. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that more people in King County die from gun violence than motor vehicle crashes.  For more information on regional gun violence and firearm access and policies, see two recent reports, Gun Violence in King County, and The Impact of Firearms on King County’s Children: 1999-2012.  For information on King County homicide and hate-crime trends, see Communities Count crime data.