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Tags: police | killings | unitedstates

The Real Issue: Guns

a hand holding a pistol

By    |   Tuesday, 18 August 2020 08:31 AM EDT

The following is the fifth in the series

There is not a systemic problem with police killing of Blacks. There are many examples of police brutality on Blacks, but there are also many examples of police brutality on whites. We need to rely on data, not media examples.

The data does not show that Black people suffer a greater rate of police killings. In fact, it proves the opposite. Blacks killing incidents are ½ of the incidents on whites, when compared to the number of violent crimes committed.

However, the United States has a rate of police killings on civilians that is 3.5 times that of Canada, 4 times Australia, and much higher for other wealthy countries. Based on 2018 data from Prison Policy Initiative, within the United States there were 33.5 police killings of civilians per 10 million population. Canada had 9.8, Australia 6.5, Netherlands 2.3, New Zealand 2.0, and Germany just 1.3. England, Japan and other wealthy countries were much lower.

It's not an ethnic issue, it is an issue with the overall number of killings by our police force, across all ethnic groups. So, let's leave ethnic groups out of this for now, and try to examine what differentiates us from the rest of the wealthier nations.

Size of Police Forces

Our police forces are not of an unusual size. The United States have about 298 police per 100,000 people. This is about average for most countries. Russia and Argentina have more than double the number of police (per 100,000 population.) Australia has about 500 on the high end and Canada has about 200 on the low end. France, Israel, Germany, and Spain have larger police forces.

There seems to be no evidence that our police force size is too large or too small.

Police Training

In Germany, police recruits spend 2½ to 4 years in training. Training in the U.S., by comparison, can take as little as 5 months (7 months, including field training). With such little time in training, the emphasis needs to be on survival. But, in Europe, the emphasis is on de-escalation and only resorting to violence when absolutely necessary. Throughout Europe, the rules on engaging with force are far stricter than in the U.S.

Part of the reason why Europe rarely uses lethal force is also because they do not have to. Handgun ownership is rare compared to the U.S., so officers do not always suspect that they are in lethal danger.


America is totally unique from other countries regarding the possession of firearms. It is estimated that we have 1.2 firearms per person in this country. No western country even comes close. The rate of firearm possession in the United States is four to six times higher than Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. These four countries have only 0.3 to 0.2 firearms per person.

A recent study found that the United States had nearly double the rate of gun deaths than Canada. Europe and most other wealthy nations are even lower, about 1/4 the level of the United States. Japan has nearly zero guns and nearly zero deaths related to guns.

A DOJ study in 2019 found that 21% of all state and federal prisoners in the U.S. possessed a firearm during their crime. For violent crimes, more than 1/3 of all prisoners had a firearm during the crime.

When police confront a violent crime, especially in the cities, they need to assume that the suspect is armed. That means that under these circumstances, police are in a war zone with fear for their lives. Bad results and mistakes can happen.

About 41% of households in the United States own a firearm and about 30% of households own a handgun. But the surveys do not come close to accounting for illegal handgun ownership.

The U.S. is one of the laxest countries in the world regarding the possession of handguns. However, the eternal conundrum is how do you take handguns away from the criminal element, without leaving the peaceful citizens defenseless?

The data is not complete, but 80% to 90% of all murders are committed with handguns. Yes, mass murders often involve semiautomatic rifles, but nearly all violent crimes involving firearms are with easily concealed handguns. And because handguns are easily concealed, police must assume in all violent crime encounters that the suspect is armed.

This causes mistakes by police when a suspect may reach into his coat or pull something out of a pocket. If the suspect had a rifle, or shotgun, the police would more easily be able to see that and respond appropriately.


I grew up with guns. My grandfather had a farm and we often did target practice. I became a National Rifle Association Safety Instructor as a teenager. I oversaw the rifle, shotgun and archery ranges at a Boy Scout Camp.

I later owned eight shotguns and did a great deal of bird hunting with my dogs. I'm now down to about four shotguns and one handgun. I also completed a course on handgun safety and I'm licensed for conceal and carry in my state.

I am a strong defender of gun rights. However, we have a proliferation of handguns like no other country and it is clearly linked to the number of firearm-related deaths. It not only leads to Black-on-Black murders, but it also places police in situations that are escalated because of fear that the person being encountered could have a hidden handgun.

We need to dramatically reduce the number of handguns in our country. We also need to provide police with deeper training on deescalating potentially violent encounters.

Next: Data is Truth, But We Need to Listen to Perceptions

Roger Andersen holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Wheaton College and an MBA from Oregon State University. He studied literature and history at Oxford University and international economics at the University of Leiden. Mr. Andersen began his career with PepsiCo, serving in various business planning, strategic planning, and financial management roles. He was CFO for Tonka/Kenner/Parker, CFO for Rollerblade, SVP for Pepsi-Cola General Bottlers, CEO of Young America Corporation, and CEO of The Bob Pike Group. He is the author of The Executive Calling: Corporate Success Without Selling Your Soul. Roger and his wife have two daughters. Read Roger Andersen's Reports — More Here.

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It's not an ethnic issue, it is an issue with the overall number of killings by our police force, across all ethnic groups.
police, killings, unitedstates
Tuesday, 18 August 2020 08:31 AM
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