[News] Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 16 09:58:25 EDT 2019


https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/08/16/who-inflicts-the-most-gun-violence-in-america-the-u-s-government-and-its-police-forces/ 



  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
    <http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/we-need-start-treating-police-shootings-form-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 
<https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-02-12/pssst-crime-may-be-near-an-all-time-low>.

Yes, mass shootings 
<https://theweek.com/articles/856989/3-things-everyone-getting-wrong-about-el-pasodayton-shootings> 
are a problem in America, although while they are getting deadlier, they 
are not getting more frequent 
<https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/04/mass-shootings-more-deadly-frequent-research-215678>.

Yes, mentally ill individuals embarking on mass shooting sprees are a 
problem in America.

However, tighter gun control laws and so-called “intelligent” background 
checks 
<https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/08/trump-gun-legislation/595828/> 
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 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/09/what-weve-learned-about-police-shootings-years-after-ferguson/>.

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 
day. 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/09/what-weve-learned-about-police-shootings-years-after-ferguson/> 
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 
shooter.

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. 
<https://thefreethoughtproject.com/police-mass-shooters-guns/>”

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 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/03/officer-was-doing-welfare-check-her-he-fatally-shot-her-after-firing-dog/>.

In Chicago, a SWAT team—wearing “army fatigues with black cloth covering 
their faces and wearing goggles 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/08/09/amir-worship-chicago-swat-raid-knee-lawsuit/>,” 
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 
<https://www.kmov.com/news/st-louis-county-reaches-settlement-after-woman-s-dog-was/article_27d2bbea-9d45-11e9-8a4f-53af5a03fcd6.html>. 
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 
<https://newsmaven.io/pinacnews/cops-gone-rogue/man-shot-four-times-by-cop-thru-front-door-says-call-the-cops-i-am-the-cops-zL2kt-60WUGt8al3-nZpCw/> 
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 
<https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2019/08/07/sc-deputy-cleared-internal-affairs-after-shooting-homeowner/1944593001/>. 
Tench survived, but the bullet lodged in his pelvis will stay there for 
life.

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 
<https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20190725/14363942655/court-no-immunity-swat-team-that-hurled-flash-bang-grenade-general-direction-two-year-old-child.shtml> 
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 
<http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/02/22/purveyors-global-violence-us-continues-lead-world-arms-trade> 
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 
<http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/24/politics/us-arms-sales-worldwide/> to 
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 
<https://news.vice.com/article/the-us-is-selling-weapons-to-nearly-half-the-countries-in-the-world>, 
its leaders have also been lecturing American citizens on the dangers of 
gun violence 
<http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/politics/obama-executive-action-gun-control/> 
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 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/us/politics/obama-to-ask-congress-to-toughen-gun-laws.html>, 
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 
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/militarization-local-police-america> 
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 
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/militarization-local-police-america>, 
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 
<http://freebeacon.com/issues/now-bureaucrats-guns-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 
<http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-does-the-irs-need-guns-1466117176> with 
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 
cannons 
<http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-does-the-irs-need-guns-1466117176> are 
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 
universities.

Seriously, why do IRS agents need AR-15 rifles 
<http://freebeacon.com/issues/now-bureaucrats-guns-u-s-marines/>?

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 
carbines 
<https://www.richmond.com/news/local/police-or-soldiers-agencies-locally-and-across-virginia-have-weapons/article_0d063dce-2b48-11e4-a2ee-0017a43b2370.html>?

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 
Afghanistan 
<http://www.thedailybeast.com/local-cops-ready-for-war-with-homeland-security-funded-military-weapons>.”

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 
<http://tbo.com/list/columns-tjackson/jackson-gun-owner-unarmed-unwelcome-in-maryland-20140112/>, 
searched 
<http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/02/19/Washington-State-Bill-To-Search-Gun-Owner-Homes-Introduced-Since-2005>, 
arrested 
<http://jonathanturley.org/2012/02/17/aclu-files-on-behalf-of-gun-owner-abusively-arrested-by-philadelphia-police/>, 
subjected to all manner of surveillance 
<http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/mar/16/nra-federal-surveillance-policies-could-undermine-/>, 
treated as a suspect 
<http://spectator.org/blog/54297/new-smartphone-app-invades-gun-owners-privacy> 
without ever having committed a crime, shot at 
<https://www.rutherford.org/publications_resources/on_the_front_lines/us_supreme_court_rejects_appeal_in_second_amendment_case> 
and killed by police.

You don’t even have to have a gun or a look-alike gun, such as a BB gun 
<http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/15/us/ohio-columbus-police-kill-teen/>, in 
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 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2016/>, 
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.” 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/09/28/police-shoot-black-man-in-san-diego-suburb-sparking-protests-circumstances-remain-unclear/>

*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 
<http://lasvegassun.com/news/2015/dec/31/metro-police-investigating-officer-involved-shooti/>. 
Similarly, police in Sacramento fired 20 shots at an unarmed, 
22-year-old black man who was standing in his grandparents’ backyard 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/22/sacramento-police-shooting/448405002/> 
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 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/us/chicago-police-fatally-shoot-2-raising-new-questions-for-a-force-under-scrutiny.html> 
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 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/27/us/chicago-police-fatally-shoot-2-raising-new-questions-for-a-force-under-scrutiny.html> 
for police.

*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 
<http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/alabama-man-rushed-officer-spoon-fatally-shot-article-1.2336281>.”

*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. 
<http://patch.com/georgia/cartersville/new-details-released-bartow-officer-involved-shooting-0>”

*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 
<http://www.cbs46.com/story/28301956/naked-man-shot-by-police-officer-at-dekalb-county-apartments>.” 
Police fired two shots at the man after he reportedly started running 
towards them.

*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 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-sheriff-shooting-20160809-snap-story.html>. 
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 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/us/nc-trooper-being-investigated-for-shooting-of-deaf-man.html>—after 
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 
<http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-castic-deputy-shooting-20160803-snap-story.html> 
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 
<http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/kass/ct-john-wrana-textbook-police-force-case-kass-0111-20150111-column.html> 
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 
<http://abc7.com/news/tulsa-police-shoot-kill-unarmed-black-man-doj-investigating/1517880/>.

*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 
<http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/04/local/la-me-ln-water-nozzle-shooting-20130404>, 
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 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/07/17/bride-to-be-called-911-for-help-and-was-fatally-shot-by-a-minneapolis-police-officer/>, 
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 
<http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/11/03/richard-ferretti-police-shooting/> 
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 
<http://www.laprogressive.com/police-shoot-unarmed-black-man/>. Young 
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 
getting worse.

In every one of these scenarios, police /could/ have resorted to less 
lethal tactics.

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 
force.

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 
<http://harvardlawreview.org/2015/04/law-enforcements-warrior-problem/>.”

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 
American People/ 
<https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1590793099/counterpunchmaga>, 
“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.

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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