King County shootings in first nine months of 2021 surpass historic 2020 level
In the first nine months of 2021, the number of shootings in King County has already surpassed last year’s historic levels for the entire year.
A new quarterly report by the King County Prosecutor’s shots fired division found 73 people were murdered with a gun in King County, and another 283 people were injured. That’s compared to 69 people killed in shootings in all of 2020, and 268 hurt.
As feared, the summer months were especially bad, with 31 more firearm-related homicides, 129 more injury shootings, and 456 more shooting incidents in which no one was hit during July, August, and September.
Young Black men in King County are disproportionately represented among those shot. Overall, more than 80% of people shot in King County were people of color.
King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay says it’s no coincidence these communities that typically have seen less investment are seeing more shootings during the pandemic.
“It’s no coincidence that this is happening during a time of great economic and social struggle in our country,” he said. “Because of the pandemic and the recession, people are losing jobs, they’re stressed out, they’re isolated, and they’re losing income. And so many of the outlets people need to relieve their stress are either unavailable or less accessible.”
“It’s clear that there is a strong correlation between the areas most impacted by gun violence, and how under resourced, disinvested from, or low income the residents are there,” he continued. “So for me, I continue to believe we need a holistic approach to gun violence prevention, which involves making sure people have their basic needs, and the support required to live safe and secure lives.”
“There’s no simple solution here,” Zahilay added. “We’re talking about huge societal, historical factors that won’t go away overnight. But we need to move in the right direction if we’re going to save as many lives as possible. It’s really important to mention that these are national trends that we’re seeing happening in dozens of cities, big cities, around the country.”
He points to the need for support and buy in from every level of government to get the level of investment needed for everything from housing to education in these communities.
“We need every level of government to be held just as accountable,” he said. “Because if we look at our state’s tax code, that has a huge impact on what we can invest.”
Sean Goode is the executive director of CHOOSE 180, a diversion program that has worked with the county for over a decade with promising results. He believes he knows how to address these shootings.
“I believe the best way to approach that conversation is by looking at violence through the lens of public health,” Goode explained. “And in considering it as a public health issue, we would address it differently. Candidly, prosecution, policing, and programming are all a stopgap. Yes, they are simply a pause. They are an opportunity for us as a collective community.”