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One in Five Law Enforcement Officers Slain in the Line of Duty Is Killed with an Assault Weapon, New VPC Study Reveals

"Officer Down"—Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement Demonstrates the Need for Strengthening and Renewing Assault Weapons Ban

WASHINGTON, DC—The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released "Officer Down"—Assault Weapons and the War on Law Enforcement, which reveals the threat of assault weapons to law enforcement officers throughout the United States. The 26-page study reveals that at least 41 of the 211 law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty between January 1, 1998, and December 31, 2001, were killed with assault weapons.

In 1994 Congress passed a law to ban certain models of semiautomatic assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Immediately after the 1994 law was enacted, the gun industry moved quickly to make slight, cosmetic design changes in their "post-ban" guns to evade the law. Today, gunmakers openly boast of their ability to circumvent the assault weapons ban.

"The gun industry's open evasion of the assault weapons ban continues to place America's law enforcement officers at the highest possible risk. The assault weapons ban must not only be renewed, but also strengthened, to protect police and the public from an industry that places profits ahead of human lives," states Kristen Rand, VPC legislative director and study author.

Without action this Congress, the 1994 assault weapons law will expire in September 2004. Both President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have expressed support for renewal of the assault weapons ban.

"Officer Down" explains how the firearms industry has evaded the current ban, and how assault weapons continue to pose a stark threat to America's law enforcement personnel. The new report lists the known incidents of police officers killed by assault weapons from 1998 through 2001, including year, state, manufacturer, model of assault weapon, and caliber. It also offers expanded narratives for 15 of the law enforcement shootings that occurred during this period.


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.

   For Release:
   Thursday, May 8, 2003

   Naomi Seligman
   Violence Policy Center
   (202) 822-8200 x105