[News] Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 16 09:58:25 EDT 2019
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and
Its Police Forces
by John W. Whitehead
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/johnwhite1124/> - August 16, 2019
“It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law
enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of
the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a
civilian counts as gun violence
Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed
person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”
—Journalist Celisa Calacal
Yes, gun violence is a problem in America, although violent crime
generally remains at an all-time low
Yes, mass shootings
are a problem in America, although while they are getting deadlier, they
are not getting more frequent
Yes, mentally ill individuals embarking on mass shooting sprees are a
problem in America.
However, tighter gun control laws and so-called “intelligent” background
fail to protect the public from the most egregious perpetrator of gun
violence in America: the U.S. government.
Consider that five years after police shot and killed an unarmed
18-year-old man in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been no relief from the
government’s gun violence
Here’s what we’ve learned about the government’s gun violence since
Ferguson, according to /The Washington Post/: If you’re a black
American, you’ve got a greater chance of being shot by police. If you’re
an unarmed black man, you’re four times more likely to be killed by
police than an unarmed white man. Most people killed by police are young
men. Since 2015, police have shot and killed an average of 3 people per
More than 2,500 police departments have shot and killed at least one
person since 2015. And while the vast majority of people shot and killed
by police are armed, their weapons ranged from guns to knives to /toy/guns.
Clearly, the U.S. government is not making America any safer.
Indeed, the government’s gun violence—inflicted on unarmed individuals
by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic
government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later—poses a
greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass
According to journalist Matt Agorist, “mass shootings … have claimed the
lives of 339 people since 2015… [D]uring this same time frame, police in
America have claimed the lives of 4,355 citizens.
That’s 1200% more people killed by police than mass shooters since 2015.
For example, in Texas, a police officer sent to do a welfare check on a
30-year-old woman seen lying on the grass near a shopping center, took
aim at the woman’s dog as it ran towards him barking, fired multiple
times, and killed the woman instead
In Chicago, a SWAT team—wearing “army fatigues with black cloth covering
their faces and wearing goggles
armed with automatic rifles, and throwing flash-bang grenades—crashed
through the doors of a suburban home and proceeded to storm into
bedrooms, holding the children of the household at gunpoint. One child,
13-year-old Amir, was “accidentally” shot in the knee by police while
sitting on his bed.
In St. Louis, Missouri, a SWAT team on a mission to deliver an
administrative warrant carried out a no-knock raid that ended with
police kicking in the homeowner’s front door, and shooting and killing
her dog—all over an unpaid gas bill
Taxpayers will have to find $750,000 to settle the lawsuit arising over
the cops’ overzealous tactics.
In South Carolina, a 62-year-old homeowner was shot four times /through
his front door/ by police
who were investigating a medical-assist alarm call that originated from
a cell phone inside the home. Dick Tench, believing his house was being
broken into, was standing in the foyer of his home armed with a handgun
when police, peering through the front door, fired several shots through
the door, hitting Tench in the pelvis and the aortic artery
Tench survived, but the bullet lodged in his pelvis will stay there for
In Kansas, a SWAT team, attempting to carry out a routine search warrant
(the suspect had already been arrested), showed up at a residence around
dinnertime, dressed in tactical gear with weapons drawn, and hurled a
flash-bang grenade into the house
past the 68-year-old woman who was in the process of opening the door to
them and in the general direction of a 2-year-old child.
These are just a few recent examples among hundreds this year alone.
Curiously enough, in the midst of the finger-pointing over the latest
round of mass shootings, Americans have been so focused on debating who
or what is responsible for gun violence—the guns, the gun owners, the
Second Amendment, the politicians, or our violent culture—that they have
overlooked the fact that the systemic violence being perpetrated by
agents of the government has done more collective harm to the American
people and their liberties than any single act of terror or mass shooting.
Violence has become our government’s calling card, starting at the top
and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried
out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed
commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police
forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents.
The government even exports violence worldwide, with one of this
country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United
States, the world’s largest exporter of arms
<http://time.com/4161613/us-arms-sales-exports-weapons/>, has been
selling violence to the world for too long now. Controlling more than 50
percent of the global weaponry market, the U.S. has sold or donated
weapons to at least 96 countries
in the past five years, including the Middle East. The U.S. also
provides countries such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Iraq with
grants and loans through the Foreign Military Financing program
purchase military weapons.
At the same time that the U.S. is equipping nearly half the world with
deadly weapons, profiting to the tune of $36.2 billion
its leaders have also been lecturing American citizens on the dangers of
and working to enact measures that would make it more difficult for
Americans to acquire certain weapons.
Talk about an absurd double standard.
If we’re truly going to get serious about gun violence, why not start by
scaling back the American police state’s weapons of war?
I’ll tell you why: because the government has no intention of scaling
back on its weapons.
In fact, all the while gun critics continue to clamor for bans on
military-style assault weapons
high-capacity magazines and armor-piercing bullets, the U.S. military
/is passing them out to domestic police forces/.
Under the auspices of a military “recycling” program, which allows local
police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more
than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred
from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990.
Included among these “gifts” are tank-like, 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush
Protected (MRAP) vehicles
tactical gear, and assault rifles.
There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government
agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines
While Americans have to jump through an increasing number of hoops in
order to own a gun, the government is arming its own civilian employees
to the hilt
guns, ammunition and military-style equipment, authorizing them to make
arrests, and training them in military tactics.
Among the agencies being supplied with night-vision equipment, body
armor, hollow-point bullets, shotguns, drones, assault rifles and LP gas
the Smithsonian, U.S. Mint, Health and Human Services, IRS, FDA, Small
Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy
Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and an assortment of public
Seriously, why do IRS agents need AR-15 rifles
For that matter, why do police need armored personnel carriers with gun
ports, compact submachine guns with 30-round magazines, precision
battlefield sniper rifles, and military-grade assault-style rifles and
Short answer: they don’t.
In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the
military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons
have become routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of
the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.
Over the course of 30 years, police officers in jack boots holding
assault rifles have become fairly common in small town communities
across the country. As investigative journalists Andrew Becker and G.W.
Schulz reveal, “Many police, including beat cops, now routinely carry
assault rifles. Combined with body armor and other apparel, many
officers look more and more like combat troops serving in Iraq and
Does this sound like a country under martial law?
You want to talk about gun violence? While it still technically remains
legal for the average citizen to /own /a firearm in America, possessing
one can now get you pulled over
subjected to all manner of surveillance
treated as a suspect
without ever having committed a crime, shot at
and killed by police.
You don’t even have to have a gun or a look-alike gun, such as a BB gun
your possession to be singled out and killed by police.
There are countless incidents that happen every day in which Americans
are shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for
little more than daring to frown, smile, question, or challenge an order.
Growing numbers of unarmed people are being shot and killed for just
standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding
something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or
igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has
nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
With alarming regularity
unarmed men, women, children and even pets are being gunned down by
twitchy, hyper-sensitive, easily-spooked police officers who shoot first
and ask questions later, and all the government does is shrug, and
promise to do better, all the while the cops are granted qualified immunity.
*Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.”* In California, police
opened fire on and killed a mentally challenged—unarmed—black man within
minutes of arriving on the scene, allegedly because he removed a vape
smoking device from his pocket and took a “shooting stance.”
*Killed for holding a cell phone.* Police in Arizona shot a man who was
running away from U.S. Marshals after he refused to drop an object that
turned out to be a cellphone
Similarly, police in Sacramento fired 20 shots at an unarmed,
22-year-old black man who was standing in his grandparents’ backyard
after mistaking his cellphone for a gun.
*Killed for carrying a baseball bat.* Responding to a domestic
disturbance call, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old college
student Quintonio LeGrier who had reportedly been experiencing mental
health problems and was carrying a baseball bat
around the apartment where he and his father lived.
*Killed for opening the front door.* Bettie Jones, who lived on the
floor below LeGrier, was also fatally shot—this time, accidentally—when
she attempted to open the front door
*Killed for running towards police with a metal spoon.* In Alabama,
police shot and killed a 50-year-old man who reportedly charged a police
officer while holding “a large metal spoon in a threatening manner
*Killed for running while holding a tree branch.* Georgia police shot
and killed a 47-year-old man wearing only shorts and tennis shoes who,
when first encountered, was sitting in the woods against a tree, only to
start running towards police holding a stick in an “aggressive manner.
*Killed for crawling around naked.* Atlanta police shot and killed an
unarmed man who was reported to have been “acting deranged, knocking on
doors, crawling around on the ground naked
Police fired two shots at the man after he reportedly started running
*Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey.* Donnell
Thompson, a mentally disabled 27-year-old described as gentle and shy,
was shot and killed after police—searching for a carjacking suspect
reportedly wearing similar clothing—encountered him lying motionless in
a neighborhood yard
Police “only” opened fire with an M4 rifle after Thompson first failed
to respond to their flash bang grenades and then started running after
being hit by foam bullets.
*Killed for driving while deaf.* In North Carolina, a state trooper shot
and killed 29-year-old Daniel K. Harris—who was deaf
Harris initially failed to pull over during a traffic stop.
*Killed for being homeless.* Los Angeles police shot an unarmed homeless
man after he failed to stop riding his bicycle
and then proceeded to run from police.
*Killed for brandishing a shoehorn.* John Wrana, a 95-year-old World War
II veteran, lived in an assisted living center, used a walker to get
around, and was shot and killed by police who mistook the shoehorn in
his hand for a 2-foot-long machete
and fired multiple beanbag rounds from a shotgun at close range.
*Killed for having your car break down on the road.* Terence Crutcher,
unarmed and black, was shot and killed by Oklahoma police after his car
broke down on the side of the road. Crutcher was shot in the back while
walking towards his car with his hands up
*Killed for holding a garden hose.* California police were ordered to
pay $6.5 million after they opened fire on a man holding a garden hose
believing it to be a gun. Douglas Zerby was shot 12 times and pronounced
dead on the scene.
*Killed for calling 911. *Justine Damond, a 40-year-old yoga instructor,
was shot and killed by Minneapolis police
allegedly because they were startled by a loud noise in the vicinity
just as she approached their patrol car. Damond, clad in pajamas, had
called 911 to report a possible assault in her neighborhood.
*Killed for looking for a parking spot.* Richard Ferretti, a 52-year-old
chef, was shot and killed by Philadelphia police
who had been alerted to investigate a purple Dodge Caravan that was
driving “suspiciously” through the neighborhood.
*Shot seven times for peeing outdoors.* Eighteen-year-old Keivon Young
was shot seven times by police from behind while urinating outdoors
was just zipping up his pants when he heard a commotion behind him and
then found himself struck by a hail of bullets from two undercover cops.
Allegedly officers mistook Young—5’4,” 135 lbs., and guilty of nothing
more than taking a leak outdoors—for a 6’ tall, 200 lb. murder suspect
whom they later apprehended. Young was charged with felony resisting
arrest and two counts of assaulting a peace officer.
This is what passes for policing in America today, folks, and it’s only
In every one of these scenarios, police /could/ have resorted to less
They /could/ have acted with reason and calculation instead of reacting
with a killer instinct.
They /could/ have attempted to de-escalate and defuse whatever perceived
“threat” caused them to fear for their lives enough to react with lethal
That police instead chose to fatally resolve these encounters by using
their guns on fellow citizens speaks volumes about what is wrong with
policing in America today, where police officers are being dressed in
the trappings of war, drilled in the deadly art of combat, and trained
to look upon “every individual they interact with as an armed threat and
every situation as a deadly force encounter in the making
Remember, to a hammer, all the world looks like a nail.
Yet as I point out in my book /Battlefield America: The War on the
“we the people” are not just getting hammered.
We’re getting killed, execution-style.
Violence begets violence: until we start addressing the U.S.
government’s part in creating, cultivating and abetting a culture of
violence, we will continue to be a nation plagued by violence in our
homes, in our schools, on our streets and in our affairs of state, both
foreign and domestic.
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