A recent op-ed in the WSJ claimed that homicides of police had shot up dramatically from 2013 to 2014. The datum was in an article claiming that "Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America." It was said that homicides of police had increased 89%. That datum was correct, but is a classic example of how to lie with statistics. From wsj.com:
Murders of officers jumped 89% in 2014, to 51 from 27.Sources can differ. But the numbers cited are close to those that appear in the Officer Down Memorial Web Page, odmp.org. The numbers of Law Officer homicides are fairly small and jump around a good bit. You can see from the chart above that the raw numbers of homicides of police committed with firearms rose from 63-64 in the middle 1960's to 140+ in the early 1970's, then gradually dropping down to the present numbers of about 47 per year. 2013 was the lowest number of law officer homicides committed with firearms since 1887. The numbers would be even more impressive if we looked at the number of homicides of law officers committed with firearms per capita. Those data are harder to come by, but may deserve another chart.
You might wonder if the total homicides of law officers changes the graph. The total is higher, as officers killed in various assaults, with bombs, stabbed, and in vehicular assaults are added. Those methods raise the total numbers, but the shape of the graph is very similar, as you would expect, with one major discrepancy.
The spike that you see in 2001 is for the officers that were killed on 9/11 in the terrorist attacks.
During the period from the peak of officers murdered in 1973, to 2012, we seem to have established a "new normal". During the same period, the numbers of firearms owned in the United States have increased from 128 million to 347 million.
While homicides of law officers fell by close to two thirds, the stock of private firearms increased by a factor of 2.7.
If we look only at homicides of law officers committed with firearms, the drop is similar, 144 to 47, just a bit more than 67%. This is expected when murders with firearms make up the majority of events.
The overall stock of private firearms has a negative correlation with officer homicides with firearms. It is unlikely that there is any causative effect. One explanation is that the number of people who are willing to murder police officers is so small that it takes very few firearms to fill their desires.
That demand can be met by a very small percentage of firearms owned by the population, or by illicitly obtained police and military firearms, or by small shop crafted firearms. Any of these sources would be more than sufficient to supply the demands of such a small and determined group.
If the bucket (demand) is small, it matters little if you fill it at a small pond or at the ocean. It is easily filled in either case.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch