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“Officers Down”: New Analysis of FBI Data Reveals That Nearly Two-Thirds Of Washington Police Shot To Death In 30-Year Span Were Murdered By People Barred From Possessing Guns

I-594, Background Check Initiative, Would Protect Law Enforcement by Preventing Convicted Felons and Other Prohibited Purchasers from Getting Guns; Research Shows Background Checks Save Officers' Lives

“Officers Down,” a new analysis of FBI data released today by Everytown for Gun Safety, reveals that nearly two-thirds of Washington State police shot to death in a 30-year span were murdered by people who had been barred from possessing guns. Everytown’s analysis was completed in the final months of the campaign for Initiative 594, the ballot measure that would close the loophole in Washington’s background check law by making sure all Washington gun-buyers undergo a background check when buying a gun. Initiative 594 would expand background checks to cover all gun sales—including those between strangers at gun shows and online— and protect law enforcement by preventing convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers from getting guns. Research shows that in states that require background checks for every gun sale, 39 percent fewer law enforcement are killed with handguns. Everytown’s “Officers Down” analysis is available here.

Of the 36 Washington State law enforcement officers murdered between 1980 and 2013, 28 were killed with firearms that were not their own. And of those gun murders, at least seventeen — 61 percent — were committed by individuals who were prohibited from possessing firearms.

To conduct the analysis, Everytown obtained the FBI’s Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) database covering felonious deaths of law enforcement from 1980 to 2011 and updated it with additional incidents documented in press clippings. For all incidents in which an officer was killed with a firearm that was not his or her own, Everytown identified the assailant and then researched state and federal criminal records and contemporaneous newspaper records to determine if the individual was prohibited by law from possessing firearms. Details of those incidents are available in the “Officers Down” analysis here.

As the analysis was released, Washington law enforcement made the following statements:

“Nearly two-thirds of Washington police officers shot to death on the job were murdered by someone who was legally prohibited from having a gun—and that’s more than tragic, it’s unacceptable,” said Don Pierce, former Bellingham Police Chief. “We must do more to protect our men and women in uniform, and we can—by passing Initiative 594, which will close Washington’s background check loophole and help keep guns out of dangerous hands.”

“The research demonstrates what police officers have long known, that unregulated firearms sales make it far too easy for convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers to obtain firearms,” said Brian O’Neill, former Auburn Police Officer. “Taking steps to reduce their access will reduce crime and save officers’ lives—and that is why passing Initiative 594 is so important.”