Thursday, July 19, 2007

Law enforcement officer deaths up sharply, lapse of gun ban blamed

Not good:

Statistics released Thursday showed that 101 local and federal law enforcement officers died on duty in the first half of the year, 31 more than had died at the same time last year. It was the first time in three decades that the toll had reached more than 100...

Floyd called the statistics “very alarming” and “somewhat puzzling, quite honestly, because over the last 30 years we’ve seen a downward trend in the number of officers’ being shot.”
They blame the sharp increase on more violent criminals who have access to deadlier weapons:
Local and federal law enforcement officials told NBC News that criminals were more likely to use high-powered semiautomatic pistols and handguns today.

Some of those weapons, like the widely feared Intratec Tec-9, were banned until 2004, but they became legal when Congress refused to extend the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, even though President Bush, an opponent of gun control, promised to sign an extension.

Semiautomatic firearms — including the previously banned assault-style guns often misleadingly equated with “assault weapons,” which remain illegal — boast higher-capacity magazines than standard revolvers, and their trigger mechanisms allow users to fire off more rounds in a shorter period of time.

The study did not examine how many of the police officers killed this year were shot with weapons that were legalized three years ago, but the study and figures compiled by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest a statistical correlation.

The 39 officers killed in the first half of 2007 exceeds the 36 officers shot to death in all of 2004, the last year the ban was in effect. More broadly, firearm-related crime rose in 2005, the first year after the semiautomatic weapons became legal again, after having declined every year since the ban took effect in 1994.

“We’ve always had lots of guns,” said Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Police Chief Darrel Stephens, president of the Major Cities Police Chiefs Association. None of the department’s officers were killed by gunfire last year, but six have been gunned down since Jan. 1.

“What we’ve seen is people shifting from revolvers to automatic weapons,” Stephens said. “Rather than six shots or five, they have 14 or 20.”

Floyd said police countermeasures had not yet caught up to the increased firepower of criminals on the street.

“Bullet-resistant vests are designed to stop normal handgun ammunition,” he said. “Criminals are getting their hands on high-powered assault weapons, and those weapons pose a great danger to police because their soft-body armor won’t protect them, in most cases.”

I have to say that I'm not as liberal on gun control as I am on other things and I admit I was just as willing to let the '94 ban die as so many other Democrats at that point. But if this correlation exists, then we should definitely look to re-instituting the ban, in some form at least. The gun control issue is definitely an area where there's too much emphasis on ideology over pragmatic, good policy. Unfortunately, mayors have been much more likely recently to tackle gun measures than our NRA-enslaved Congress.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

That's unexpected bad news. Yes, someone should definitely get to the bottom of that, and states should take up measures if the federal government will not.