More ‘Good Guys With Guns’ Equals More Dead Police, According To New Study (IMAGE)

“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” So says Wayne LaPierre, of the National Rifle Association. But now a new study finds that police officers — the original “good guys with guns” — are more likely to be killed in states with high gun ownership rates.

The study, published in the American Journal Of Public Health, is titled “Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States.” It was conducted by two researchers from Harvard, one from Johns Hopkins University, and one from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. In the abstract the authors observe that more than 90 percent of police killed in the line of duty are killed by firearms. Their goal was to look for relationships between police deaths and gun ownership. What they found is that police officers are three times more likely to be murdered in states with high rates of gun ownership, than in those with fewer guns.

David Swedler, lead author of the study, who now works at the University of Illinois-Chicago, said, “If we’re interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what’s killing them is guns.”

The researchers looked at police officer deaths between 1996 and 2010, using FBI data. They found that during that period, there were 782 homicides of police nationwide. 716 of those homicides were committed by guns, and 515 of those were committed by people using handguns.

Of course, in the United States, where gun ownership is sacred, there is no national database of gun owners, so the researchers had to come up with a different source to determine which states had the most gun owners. To obtain the data for gun ownership, the team looked at information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an annual survey of health related issues, which includes information about suicides by firearm. The rate of suicide with a gun has been proven to be connected to the rate of firearm ownership, which is why Swedler and his colleagues used that source for their gun ownership data.

Let’s be clear about something. We’re not talking about officers being killed in states with a lot of crime, where many criminals use guns. We’re talking about more cops being killed in states that have more legal gun owners. Swedler said:

We found that officers aren’t being killed in states with high violent-crime rates. While violent crime rates didn’t track closely to officer homicide rates, it was public gun ownership that had the strongest relationship.

You can see from the image below that among the states that have the lowest rate of gun ownership — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island — none ranked among the highest states for police officer homicides. But, among the ten states with the highest gun ownership rates, five — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana — also had some of the highest rates of police being killed in the line of duty. Why?

Swedler says that it has a lot to do with domestic violence cases:

Research shows that responding to domestic violence calls are one of the most common situations in which officers are killed. In states where firearms are more prevalent, officers responding to reports of domestic violence are more often entering potentially lethal situations compared to officers responding to such calls in states with lower firearm prevalence.

So the Fox News/right-wing media fueled fantasy of wild-eyed “thugs” out on the streets looking for cops to kill is just that: a fantasy. Officer Smith is much more likely to be killed by Joe Sixpack, who has had a few too many, and gets into an argument with his wife. That would be Joe Sixpack, “law-abiding gun owner,” aka “a good guy with a gun.” At least right up until the moment he shoots the cop who responds to the domestic disturbance call.

via Megan Strand/UIC

via Megan Strand/UIC

Featured image via Greg Matthews/Flickr