High Gun Ownership May Contribute to Officer Deaths

Police officers walking awayHigh rates of gun ownership may triple law enforcement officers’ odds of being killed on the job, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 72 officers died on the job in 2014, with firearms claiming the lives of 30. So far in 2015, 23 officer deaths out of a total of 78 have been firearms-related. The highest number of police fatalities have occurred in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi so far this year.

The Connection Between Officer Deaths and Gun Ownership

Gun violence is a leading cause of death in the United States, and according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30,000 people are killed in firearm-related incidents each year.

Compared to the national average, law enforcement officials are three times more likely to be murdered on the job, and firearms contribute to many of these deaths. Many people expect that a higher death rate of people who work in law enforcement is the product of proximity to more violent criminals than people in other professions, but this latest study does not support that conclusion.

To explore the connection between officer deaths and gun ownership, researchers pulled data on law enforcement deaths from 1996 to 2010 from an FBI database. They also gathered mean household gun ownership in each state from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Researchers controlled for factors related to gun deaths, such as the rate of violent crime in each state, making sure higher homicide rates could not be attributed to the occurrence of more frequent violent crime. After conducting a regression statistical analysis, they determined where gun ownership is higher, law enforcement officers are three times as likely to be shot and killed on the job.

Over the 15-year period that researchers studied, a 10% increase in private gun ownership at the state level produced an average of 10 additional police deaths. The team concludes that by restricting gun ownership, states may reduce law enforcement deaths.


  1. Fast Stats: All Injuries. (2015, August 21). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
  2. Preliminary 2015 law enforcement officer fatalities. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/
  3. Saxena, R. (2015, August 25). States with more guns have more police fatalities. Retrieved from http://arstechnica.com/science/2015/08/states-with-more-guns-have-more-police-fatalities/
  4. Swedler, D. I., Simmons, M. M., Dominici, F., & Hemenway, D. (2015). Firearm prevalence and homicides of law enforcement officers in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. doi:10.2105/ajph.2015.302749

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  • Leave a Comment
  • terra

    August 25th, 2015 at 4:34 PM

    so how about we wise up in this country and see that guns are not really protecting any of us, they are killing more of us?

  • Caroline

    August 26th, 2015 at 10:41 AM

    Added to this is the fact that very few people tend to take the value of life very seriously anymore

  • Sana

    August 26th, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    So unfortunately just this week we have lost a police officer to senseless gun violence as well as the two reporters today in Virginia. It makes me so scared and quite honestly heartbroken that this is what our society has come to. I am just numb, and wonder how many more stories there will be to explain to my children about why so many innocent people are losing their lives.

  • TJ

    August 27th, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    No matter the amount of money that they would pay me to be a police officer, I just don’t think that that is a job that I could do in today’s society. People are mean and they are crazy and they really have very little regard for the life of others. It is sad to think but I don’t think that there are very many people who, when placed in a corner wouldn’t do what they have to do to not be in that corner. and for someone who is criminal minded, they don’t care if they take your life or not. We have become so “me” minded that it has become hard for so many to see past their own needs.

  • chuck

    August 29th, 2015 at 5:32 PM

    At this point I am not sure what more it could take for the world to see that these high rates of gun ownership are presenting a very high price for all of us to pay.
    Yes, I believe that people should be able to own a handgun if they choose to do so, but where does it end? there is not a need for every single person in this country to be armed to the hilt. There is something seriously wrong here that I think that we are failing to somehow see,.

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