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King County Campaign: Lock Up Guns, Lower Risk of Youth Suicide

Paula Wissel

Children who live in homes with an unlocked gun are nine times more likely to commit suicide, according to data compiled by Public Health – Seattle & King County between 1999 and 2012. The same data, released Monday, shows more than 5,000 of the county’s children live in homes with an unlocked firearm.

In response to the new findings, King County has launched the Safe Storage Saves Lives campaign through which ten local and national retailers will offer discounts on secure lockboxes, the county announced Monday.

"The evidence is clear: Safe storage can save lives,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a released statement.

Thecounty’s retail partners, which include Costco and Sports Authority, will offer a discount of 10 to 15 percent on secure lockboxes until the year’s end.

A lockbox can prevent not only suicides but thefts as well, the county said. Last year, more than $4.5 million in firearms were reported stolen in Washington state, according to the Washington State Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Nearly one-fourth of households in King County has a weapon in the house, county data shows, and among those, 17 percent kept the weapon loaded and unlocked.

According to county data, between 1999 and 2012, 68 children died from gunshot wounds, 28 of them by suicide. Another 125 children were injured from gun violence.

During the last school year, 52 students were disciplined for bringing a firearm to school.

Additional information on the county's campaign is available on

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.