More guns mean more officers in the morgue

A new study comes to buckle the widely-held belief that cities with high rate of crime translate directly to higher numbers of police fatalities.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that states with more guns also have the highest rates of police officers killed in the line of duty.

The UIC study found that police officers in states with high private gun ownership are more than three times more likely to be killed on the job than in states with the lowest gun ownership.
Image credits: Megan Strand/UIC

When data from cities such as Camden and Newark, New Jersey,  is compared to numbers from the state of Montana, something interesting comes up. While the two cities are known for their more violent nature, they have relatively-low rates of homicide amongst police officers, and the Big Sky Country has some of the greatest per-capita dangers to law enforcement, according to David Swedler, research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

It all boils down to guns, and places where private ownership of guns means occupation hazards for officers, Swedler went on to explain.

“If we’re interested in protecting police officers, we need to look at what’s killing them, and what’s killing them is guns,” he said. “We know that 92 percent of police officers killed in the line of duty are killed by guns, three-quarters of which are handguns.”

The scientists looked at all killings of police officers from 1996 to 2010. Of the 782 homicides of police over the period, 716 were committed using guns, and 515 with handguns, they found.

A correlation between more gun ownership and higher incidence of cops killed existed. And it all makes sense. Officers are surprisingly resistant to frying pans or nerf guns I’ve been told.

But somehow they just can’t handle flying bullets. Who would have thought?
Image via hdwallpaperscool

And the correlation stands across America. Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana were all in the top quintile for gun ownership and law-enforcement homicides. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island were at the opposite end, in the lowest quintile for guns and cop homicides.

“We found that officers aren’t being killed in stats 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,” Swedler added.

Rates of gun ownership studied ranged from 4.8 percent of households in Washington D.C., to 62 percent in Wyoming. Overall, 38 percent of U.S. households have at least one gun.

So, who wants to become a policeman?

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