State Background Check Requirements and Firearm Homicide Against Law Enforcement

January 15, 2015

Loopholes in federal and state law make it easy for dangerous people to get guns. But Everytown’s research shows that common-sense public safety laws can help reduce gun violence against law enforcement and save lives. Simply put, background check laws make cops safer: Law enforcement officers are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns in states that require background checks for unlicensed, “private” handgun sales than in states that do not.

Methodology

Everytown compared the number of law enforcement officers killed with handguns that were not their own over a twelve year period (2000-11) in states that did or did not require background checks for unlicensed, “private” handgun sales.

Data on deaths were obtained from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed in Action database. The database includes detailed information on every duly sworn officer – including city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal officers – killed in the line of duty going back to 1980. To qualify, officers must have been working in an official capacity (on or off duty), had full arrest powers, ordinarily worn or carried a badge and a firearm, and been paid from governmental funds specifically appropriated for law enforcement officers.See http://1.usa.gov/1BpHxSL (last accessed November 13, 2014) for a detailed explanation of the criteria required.

Data on the population of law enforcement officers were obtained from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.FBI, Crime in the United States, Table 77, available at: http://1.usa.gov/1CmPZhV The population of law enforcement officers in the District of Columbia was not available, so the District was excluded from the analysis.

Results

During the study period, 13 states required all gun buyers to undergo a background check before buying a handgun in an unlicensed sale, and 36 states did not. Missouri repealed its background check requirement in 2007, and was excluded from this analysis. Between 2000-11, the FBI reported that 676 law enforcement officers were killed in action in these states, of whom 551 (82 percent) were killed with firearms, and 347 were killed with handguns that were not the officers’ own. Adjusting for population, there were 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns that were not their own in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not.

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Loopholes in federal and state law make it easy for dangerous people to get guns. But Everytown’s research shows that
common-sense public safety laws can help reduce gun violence against law enforcement and save lives. Simply put,
background check laws make cops safer: Law enforcement officers are 48 percent less likely to be killed with handguns in
states that require background checks for unlicensed, “private” handgun sales than in states that do not.
METHODOLOGY
Everytown compared the number of law enforcement officers killed with handguns that were not their own over a twelveyear
period (2000-11) in states that did or did not require background checks for unlicensed, “private” handgun sales.
Data on deaths were obtained from the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed in Action database. The database includes
detailed information on every duly sworn officer – including city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal
officers – killed in the line of duty going back to 1980. To qualify, officers must have been working in an official capacity (on
or off duty), had full arrest powers, ordinarily worn or carried a badge and a firearm, and been paid from governmental
funds specifically appropriated for law enforcement officers.1
Data on the population of law enforcement officers were obtained from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports.2
The population
of law enforcement officers in the District of Columbia was not available, so the District was excluded from the analysis.
RESULTS
During the study period, 13 states required all gun buyers to undergo a background check before buying a handgun in an
unlicensed sale, and 36 states did not.3
Between 2000-11, the FBI reported that 676 law enforcement officers were killed in
action in these states, of whom 551 (82 percent) were killed with firearms, and 347 were killed with handguns that were not
the officers’ own. Adjusting for population, there were 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers killed with handguns that
were not their own in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not.
STATE BACKGROUND CHECK REQUIREMENTS
AND RATES OF FIREARM HOMICIDE AGAINST
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
1. See http://1.usa.gov/1BpHxSL (last accessed November 13, 2014) for a detailed explanation of the criteria required.
2. FBI, Crime in the United States, Table 77, available at: http://1.usa.gov/1CmPZhV
3. Missouri repealed its background check requirement in 2007, and was excluded from this analysis.
Law enforcement
officers (LEO) –
average
LEO killed in action LEO killed with firearm LEO killed with handgun
not officer’s own
LEO killed with handgun
not their own per
100,000 officers
Total 665,129 676 551 347 52.2
States that require a
background check for
private handgun sales
322,163 272 184 114 35.4
States that do not require a
background check for
private handgun sales
342,966 404 367 233 67.9
Difference -48%
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS KILLED IN ACTION, 2000-2011
2000-2011
BACKGROUND CHECK
REQUIRED FOR ALL HANDGUN
SALES?
LAW ENFORCEMENT
OFFICERS (LEO) – AVERAGE LEO KILLED IN ACTION LEO KILLED WITH FIREARM LEO KILLED WITH
HANDGUN NOT THEIR OWN
LEO KILLED WITH
HANDGUN NOT THEIR OWN
PER 100,000 OFFICERS
ALABAMA NO 10,229 19 18 10 97.8
ALASKA NO 1,201 5 4 1 83.3
ARIZONA NO 11,744 20 20 13 110.7
ARKANSAS NO 5,499 8 8 5 90.9
CALIFORNIA YES 75,670 55 50 28 37.0
COLORADO NO 10,909 7 7 5 45.8
CONNECTICUT YES 8,096 1 1 0 0.0
DELAWARE NO 2,242 2 1 1 44.6
FLORIDA NO 42,844 36 34 28 65.4
GEORGIA NO 22,228 27 27 21 94.5
HAWAII YES 2,870 2 2 2 69.7
IDAHO NO 2,553 3 3 2 78.3
ILLINOIS YES 36,297 23 22 17 46.8
INDIANA NO 10,606 15 15 10 94.3
IOWA YES 5,096 1 1 0 0.0
KANSAS NO 6,887 7 7 6 87.1
KENTUCKY NO 7,790 8 6 1 12.8
LOUISIANA NO 15,371 27 26 18 117.1
MAINE NO 2,220 0 0 0 0.0
MARYLAND YES 15,103 14 12 9 59.6
MASSACHUSETTS YES 16,110 2 2 2 12.4
MICHIGAN YES 19,737 23 20 11 55.7
MINNESOTA NO 8,424 7 6 5 59.4
MISSISSIPPI NO 5,201 15 10 4 76.9
MONTANA NO 1,662 2 2 0 0.0
NEBRASKA YES 3,418 1 1 1 29.3
NEVADA NO 5,226 3 3 0 0.0
NEW HAMPSHIRE NO 2,285 2 2 2 87.5
NEW JERSEY YES 30,925 8 6 4 12.9
NEW MEXICO NO 3,978 7 6 6 150.8
NEW YORK YES 61,343 90 18 12 19.6
NORTH CAROLINA YES 21,160 23 21 11 52.0
NORTH DAKOTA NO 1,196 1 1 1 83.6
OHIO NO 21,873 19 17 15 68.6
OKLAHOMA NO 7,297 5 4 1 13.7
OREGON NO 5,595 5 3 1 17.9
PENNSYLVANIA YES 23,820 28 27 17 71.4
RHODE ISLAND YES 2,517 1 1 0 0.0
SOUTH CAROLINA NO 10,215 20 19 8 78.3
SOUTH DAKOTA NO 1,365 3 3 2 146.5
TENNESSEE NO 15,306 20 17 11 71.9
TEXAS NO 50,453 58 50 26 51.5
UTAH NO 4,665 5 5 2 42.9
VERMONT NO 1,049 0 0 0 0.0
VIRGINIA NO 17,448 22 20 15 86.0
WASHINGTON NO 10,133 15 14 8 79.0
WEST VIRGINIA NO 3,258 3 3 2 61.4
WISCONSIN NO 12,677 8 6 3 23.7
WYOMING NO 1,339 0 0 0 0.0