It’s been reported recently that the US government doesn’t keep track of how many people are killed by the police. The FBI relies on individual police departments to report “justifiable homicides” they commit, but a study by The Wall Street Journal found that “hundreds of police killings are uncounted in federal stats”.
That’s why The Guardian created “The Counted”. It’s an attempt to document everyone killed by America’s police departments during 2015. The database includes people shot to death, as well as those who died under other circumstances, such as the 15 people hit by police cars. As of today, the database contains 506 deaths, 442 by gunshot. You can look at the database and see brief accounts of each incident here.
In a related Guardian article, it’s pointed out that:
… police in the US often contend with much more violent situations and more heavily armed individuals than police in other developed democratic societies. Still, looking at our data for the US against admittedly less reliable information on police killings elsewhere paints a dramatic portrait … : the US is not just some outlier in terms of police violence when compared with countries of similar economic and political standing. America is the outlier … [my emphasis].
One way to reduce both the number of violent situations the police confront and the number of people they kill would be to reduce the number of firearms in circulation. (If you want to get shot by a police officer, the most efficient way is to acquire a gun and then point it at a cop, like David Schwalm did last month.)
And one way to reduce the number of firearms in circulation would be to enforce something like Connecticut’s “permit to purchase” law. From Salon:
Connecticut’s “permit to purchase” law, in effect for two decades, requires residents to undergo background checks, complete a safety course and apply in-person for a permit before they can buy a handgun. The law applies to both private sellers and licensed gun dealers.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins reviewed the homicide rate in the 10 years before the law was implemented and compared it to longitudinal estimates of what the rate would have been had the law not be enacted. The study found a 40 percent reduction in gun-related homicides….there was no similar drop in non-firearm homicides.
The relationship between tighter regulations around handguns and fewer gun-related homicides is in keeping with previous research out of Johns Hopkins on what happened after Missouri repealed its own permit law.
When Missouri repealed its permit law, the number of homicides went up, which shouldn’t have been a surprise. The John Hopkins researchers found a 23% increase in gun-related homicides in the five years after the law was repealed.