Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States

Category: Firearm Availability, Homicide|Journal: American Journal of Public Health (full text)|Author: D Hemenway, D Swedler, F Dominici, M Simmons|Posted On: January 01,2015

Objectives. In the United States, state firearm ownership has been correlated with homicide rates. More than 90% of homicides of law enforcement officers (LEOs) are committed with firearms. We examined the relationship between state firearm ownership rates and LEO occupational homicide rates.

Methods. We obtained the number LEOs killed from 1996 to 2010 from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database. We calculated homicide rates per state as the number of officers killed per number of LEOs per state, obtained from another FBI database. We obtained the mean household firearm ownership for each state from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Results. Using Poisson regression and controlling for factors known to affect homicide rates, we associated firearm ownership with the homicide rates for LEOs (incidence rate ratio = 1.044; P = .005); our results were supported by cross-sectional and longitudinal sensitivity analyses. LEO homicide rates were 3 times higher in states with high firearm ownership compared with states with low firearm ownership.

Conclusions. High public gun ownership is a risk for occupational mortality for LEOs in the United States. States could consider methods for reducing firearm ownership as a way to reduce occupational deaths of LEOs.

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