Statement of Purpose Over 100 law enforcement officers (LEOs) are killed in the line-of-duty annually in the US; more than 90% of these homicides involve firearms. In the general population, higher levels of firearm ownership are associated with higher firearm homicide rates. A high prevalence of firearms could also be associated with greater incidence of LEO death and injury. The aim of this study was to quantify the association between state-level estimates of household firearm ownership and LEO fatal and nonfatal firearm assault.
Methods/Approach This cross-sectional panel analysis used data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s, Uniform Crime Reporting, Police Employee Data for 2006–2016. A total of 11,371 law enforcement agencies reported data over 11-years (n=125,081 agency-years). The dependent variables were fatal and nonfatal LEO firearm assault for each agency-year. The main independent variable was year-specific estimates of household firearm ownership for the state each agency was located. A binary variable indicated the presence of universal background check laws active in the state during that year. Multilevel logistic regression models estimated the odds of any fatal or nonfatal LEO assault, while controlling for relevant agency and state-level confounders.
Results A total of 2,304 fatal and 1,925 nonfatal LEO firearm assaults occurred during the study period. The average household firearm ownership rate for states was 36.3% (SD=0.1) and 20% of included agency-years were in states with universal background check laws. Higher state-level firearm ownership was associated with increased odds of LEO fatal and nonfatal firearm assault (OR=1.001; 95%CI=1.000–1.003 and OR=1.002; 95%CI=1.001–1.003 respectively). This association was strongest for agencies located in states without universal background check laws.
Conclusion LEO fatal and nonfatal firearm assault risks are greatest where firearm ownership is highest and background check laws are weakest.
Significance Expanding universal background check laws could be an effective approach to reducing LEO firearm assault.
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