Guns Really Cause Police Shootings

Contrary to a well-worn slogan, it really is guns that shoot people. This principle is laid bare to a shocking extent by comparisons of police shootings between US and other developed countries.

US versus UK
In Europe, most citizens feel no need to carry handguns. That is just as well because they would find it hard to get a permit to carry guns, or to purchase anything but the long guns used in hunting, and sport shooting.

The relative lack of guns in many European countries makes neighborhoods so safe that police go about unarmed.

As one might expect, homicide rates are substantially lower in Europe than in the US. In the UK, homicide rates are about five times lower than in the US. The incidence of police-involved shootings is strikingly lower as well.

Police shoot close to a thousand people dead every year in this country (965 in 2015). In the UK, police shot 55 people dead over the last 24 years that is less than US police kill every 24 days. Adjusting for population differences, police in the US are about 70 times as dangerous to civilians as they are in the UK.

Of course, US police are more at risk themselves with 42 police dying by gunfire in the line of duty in 2015, compared to the UK where there were just 8 deaths of police officers over the past five years.

What to do
The pattern is clear enough. Handguns are very dangerous for the police and the public alike but what to do with this evidence is a lot trickier. Clearly, it would be a lot better if most police were unarmed. One obvious compromise would be to use more non-lethal weapons such as tasers, and tear gas that are commonly used where police do not carry guns.

Yet, US police may be unwilling to give up guns. Police do not carry revolvers because they are trigger happy but because they must venture into dangerous neighborhoods where they confront armed suspects.

So it may be difficult to disarm the police if the public are not disarmed first. Political pundits doubt that can ever happen in this country where the supposed constitutional right of the public to bear arms (outside of a well-ordered militia) is essentially a religious belief and where legislators are afraid of the NRA.

If anyone needed a historical parallel, just how wrong the individual right to bear arms can go is well illustrated by the infamous frontier feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys whose drunken brawls frequently devolved into shootings. These impetuous homicides brought endless retaliations.

In the end, even the Hatfields and McCoys grew weary of their pointless blood feud and laid down their weapons. Most developed countries restrict access to handguns thereby reducing homicides by a factor of five.