Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager gunned down by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, was struck by six bullets. Whether one believes he deserved it, as the Ku Klux Klan and FOX News believe, or whether one understands that shooting an unarmed person is never justified, one thing is for certain: American police love their guns way too much.
On August 15, The Economist reported that, “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero. In 2012 the figure was just one.” This means that Michael Brown was the recipient of more bullets than were fired by an entire country’s police force in an entire year, excluding training and “animal destruction.”
“Even after adjusting for the smaller size of Britain’s population,” The Economist notes, “British citizens are around 100 times less likely to be shot by a police officer than Americans.”
The Economist’s take on the situation is not entirely correct, however.
There were three shooting incidents in 2013. Multiple bullets could have been fired in each of the incidents, and exact numbers of shots fired are unavailable. Of over 10,000 operations in which the use of firearms was authorized, police actually fired shots in just .027% of them.
British police officers rarely fire guns–in fact, most don’t even carry one. Only specialist firearms officers are permitted to carry weapons, and criminals rarely have access to them because lawmakers have taken a reasonable approach, and restricted access to the deadly weapons.
While the exact data on the number of bullets fired by British police in 2013 is not readily available, The Week pointed out in 2012 that German police fired only 85 bullets in 2011–five less than Los Angeles police fired in April of 2012. More than half, 49, were warning shots not fired at suspects, and the remaining 36 resulted in just 15 injuries and six fatalities.
Between 2009-2010, the British Metropolitan Police, the country’s largest police force, fired just six shots–the exact number of bullets found in Michael Brown’s body alone–with only two fatalities.
“Our police officers are not ‘thugs in uniform’,” observed Lorenz Caffier, the Christian Democrat leader of the state Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. “[The police] alone are the law and are committed to fulfilling the task that we as a society [entrust to] them, based on the rule of law.”
In the United States, however, gun culture has provided criminals with an abundant supply as “responsible gun owners” have repeatedly fought for limitations of firearm regulations.