December 30, 2013
By Robert W. Hunnicutt
Only 33 police officers were killed by gunfire in 2013, the lowest number since 1887, according to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Killings of police peaked in the 1970s, with 1976 being the most deadly year as 156 officers were killed. Since then, the average number of officers shot and killed has decreased from 127 per year in the 1970s to 57 per year in the 2000s.
Of those killed in firearms-related incidents, 19 (58%) were killed with handguns and just six (18%) with rifles, belying the notion that assault rifles are a big threat to police. The number of officers killed with all types of rifles exactly equaled the number killed in falls.
As we know, the number of firearms has mushroomed since the 1970s, especially in the last 10 years. This increase has clearly had no effect whatsoever on officer deaths. What has?
- Improved bullet-resistant protective gear
- Better training and tactics
- Better communications and emergency medicine
- Specialized units trained to deal with armed confrontations
- A much higher level of incarceration
- Demographic changes leading to smaller populations in the most crime-prone age groups
Notably absent from that list? Gun control.
Gun controllers confidently predicted handgun bans in the 1970s, and there were plenty on our side who were resigned to them. They were fought and defeated, and more effective anti-crime measures enacted. The result is a vast decline both in murder of police and civilians.
And by the way: the leading cause of police deaths in 2013? Traffic accidents.