Data, cursèd data!
“World of Violence Could Be New Norm” said my local paper this week following the murder of five police officers in Dallas. The mental health expert cited in Elisa Sand’s article suggested the “new norm” is the intense media coverage of violence, not the violence itself.
This chart from the Washington Post, based on data from the Officer Down Memorial Page, shows that the number of police killed on the job each year by assault, bombing, stabbing, gunfire, and vehicular attack as declined under each President since Reagan:
Folks concerned about the murder of police officers should also look at their state gun laws:
…[L]ate last year, researchers at Harvard and elsewhere discovered an alarming fact: Police officers are much more likely to be killed in the line of duty in states with high rates of gun ownership.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, used FBI data to track police officer deaths in the line of duty from 1996 to 2010. They cross-referenced this with state-level gun ownership rates as measured in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that asked about gun ownership from 2001 to 2004….
The results were shocking: line-of-duty homicide rates among police officers were more than three times higher in states with high gun ownership compared with the low gun ownership states. Between 1996 and 2010, in other words, there were 0.31 officer fatalities for every 10,000 employed officers in low gun ownership states. But there were 0.95 fatalities per 10,000 officers in the high gun ownership states.
“Higher levels of private firearm ownership likely increased the frequency with which officers faced potentially life-threatening situations on the job,” the study says. High rates of officer homicides appeared to be caused “by more frequently encountering situations where privately owned firearms were present,” it says [Christopher Ingraham, “More Police Officers Die on the Job in States with More Guns,” Washington Post, 2016.07.08].
Sometimes even a good guy with a gun can’t stop a bad guy with a gun. Making it easier for bad guys to get guns makes good guys’ lives harder… and sometimes shorter.
p.s.: Interestingly, South Dakota doesn’t seem to fit the latter correlation. According to the AJPH report, South Dakota is in the top quintile for gun ownership but the second-from -bottom quintile for law enforcement officer homicides.