This number startled me, and so I did some research. I found a site that listed 150 of the 154 (up through the 23d of December, apparently): Please note, this is a site for and by "lawmen". It also listed the 146 dead in line of duty (LOD) in 2003. Here is a summary:
· 69 died in traffic accidents, including: 37 automobile accidents, 12 vehicular assaults, 7 vehicle pursuits, 7 struck by vehicles, and 6 motorcycle accidents. (Please note how the list breaks them down into five different categories: I had to put them all together.) (CNN reported 72 traffic accident deaths, by the way.)
· 56 died from “Gunfire, 53 gunfire and 3 gunfire (accidental).
· 10 heart attacks.
· 11 other causes: 2 aircraft accidents, 2 bombs (1 USAF and 1 State Department officer), 3 drownings, 1 explosion, 1 electrocution, 1 fall, 1 weather/natural disaster (a Park Service Ranger).
· No cause of death listed for 4.
Now, please do not think that I am being callous, or disrespectful of these men and women: I have a number of friends who are police officers, more who have been or retired from being police officers, and served in a Military Police Battalion in the Army. I know that they can live dangerous lives. But let’s look at these numbers.
· First, the way they are categorized makes the raw data look very much anti-gun.: 53 "gunfire" followed by 37 automobile accidents. You have to look at all the categories.
· Second, notice what CNN said: "almost half" - yeah, 69 is "almost half," but it would (in my opinion) have been more accurate to report "Traffic accidents are the number one cause of line of duty deaths." Even if you removed the 12 “vehicular assaults from the category of traffic accidents, that still makes traffic accidents the cause of more deaths than gunfire, by 57 to 56.
· Third, notice that traffic accidents are broken down into five categories, but gunfire into only two: motorcycles are listed separately from automobiles (although trucks are not broken out separately).
Maybe it would be more useful if gunfire were broken out into a few more categories: for example, how many were suicide? I know it happens, even to cops. No information was given on "blue kills"or "own goals" (military slang for a cop getting killed by another cop) unless those are the 3 "accidental"deaths - but again, it happens. No information was given on how many were "assault weapons"or "Saturday night specials" - surely as great a difference as between motorcycles and automobiles. Nothing was provided about the age of the gunfire-killers: were they teens or adults? And no information was provided on how many were in self-defense: perhaps we can assume that "in line of duty" means the cop wasn't killed when attempting to commit a crime, although that has been known to happen.
Notice also that the third major category was "heart attacks" (10 dead). Hmmm. Too much stress, or too many donuts? No information was given, unfortunately, on whether the other eleven deaths were intentional/caused by bad guys or accidents. I did notice a few interesting items, by the way: none were killed in accidents involving horses or horseback riding, none were killed by falling objects, and no one choked to death or had a stroke. (Keep in mind that these are deaths when on duty, and don't count people who died on vacation, at home, or moonlighting.)
It helps to get a historical perspective on this: although deaths are up by 8 from last year, they are actually right at the 10-year average of 153 per year. (Source:) The worst year was actually way back in 1974, when 268 died: even though 74 died on Bloody Tuesday (9-11-2001), that year was about average, apparently. Between 1970 and today, the number of police has more than doubled, from 315,000 to 740,000, while average deaths have dropped from 218 to 153 per year: it is safer to be a cop today than apparently at any time in history. The fact that more died in accidents than from "felonious assaults" or "gunfire" is not new, either. For example CNN said that the FBI reported in 2000, 84 officers died in accidents while only 47 were killed by gunfire.
In a society where gun-phobia is driven and drives itself with fear of "cop-killers" it turns out that more people are killing cops by running them down, or getting hit by them, than by assault weapons or Saturday-night specials or any other type of firearm. I find that very interesting, indeed. Maybe we are working the wrong way!
Perhaps, we ought to look at whether, instead of trying to license gun-owners and users, we ought to be eliminating drivers' licenses. You see, I can be almost 100% certain that virtually EVERY one of the other drivers involved in the killing of police officers in traffic, either accidental or on purpose, had a drivers license. Yeah, some may have been underage kids sneaking out, or a convicted drunk driver on a suspended or revoked license, but I'll bet you that almost everyone of the 69 officers was killed by the actions of a licensed motor vehicle operator, either themselves or someone else. Not only that, at least 15 of the 56 police officers who WERE killed by firearms were killed in a half-dozen jurisdictions where licenses are necessary to own handguns, sometimes even longarms: Maryland, New Jersey, District of Columbia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York. That is 27 percent of gunfire deaths in only 12% (6 of 52) jurisdictions. Logically, ending both mandatory drivers licenses and mandatory gun licenses makes sense, based on these statistics. (And on many other grounds, I might add.)
When looking at accident and fatality statistics in general, maybe our lawmakers should consider some further fixing of our laws:
· Federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from owning a handgun. Yet state laws allow 16-18 year olds to drive cars. (Some states [gasp!] even allow 14 year olds to drive.) Yet more than twice as many 16-18 year olds die in automobile accidents than die from firearms (accident or otherwise). Maybe, we ought to make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 (or even 21) to drive!
· More police officers seem to die in accidents involving SUVs than any other kind of vehicle. In fact, SUVs seem to be a real-world equivalent of "cop-killer" bullets (which really don’t seem to be used much to kill cops). Like cop-killer bullets, maybe SUVs should be made illegal. A similar thing could be said about motorcycles: maybe they ought to go back to horses!
· It appears that most of the time when cops die in traffic accidents, they themselves are in a vehicle: only 7 cops were struck while walking, standing, or eating donuts (unless some of the 12 "vehicular assaults" were also of dismounted police). Maybe powered vehicles, two OR four wheels, are so dangerous that cops should be prohibited from operating them on duty.
· Now that I think about it, in fact, most of the time that cops are killed by firearms, they themselves are wearing or even using firearms. In an effort to change ALL the circumstances, maybe we should have them stop wearing firearms. After all, British bobbies don't, and they don’t have near the slaughter of cops in the UK that we do.
Of course, I hope the reader understands these "suggestions" are silly and made for shock effect - but these are exactly the same arguments used to push "assault weapons" bans, increased age limits on gun purchase and ownership, banning of certain kinds of ammunition, and many other anti-gun measures. Isn't it time we stopped being so hypocritical, and recognize that there are many dangers in modern life, and that just as the automobile (and the motorcycle) have such function and so many advantages that we have to accept those who are killed or injured by them, firearms are exactly the same.
Oh, and of course the headline is misleading - but I'm trying to write this article like a real media pro, so OF COURSE, the headline is misleading.