AP Reporter Colleen Long , our reporter of the Times Square Maching Pistol, has another gun-related story on the national wires. After a colorful and apparently accurate lead recalling several fatal shootings of police officers she writes: " Across the nation, 2009 was a particularly perilous year for officers involved in gun disputes."
Her basis for the headline grabbing claim is a "24 per cent increase" in police slayings through early December 2009 compared to the same 2008 period -- 47 officers killed this year against 38 last.
The numbers are apparently correct, but she slips into that muddy junction linking small-number statistics to general conclusions. For instance, one way to have written the same thing would say the marginal number of officers (9) killed in 2009 versus 2008 amounted to (decimal) .000001 for the 900,000 officers in the nation, far less dramatic, of course, than a 24 per cent increase.
There should be a slightly warmer corner of Hell reserved for thugs who shoot honest and decent cops, but officers dying in the line of duty is not an argument for general gun grabbing. To be fair, Coleen doesn't make that argument, although she does write: "The availability of guns compounds the problem, criminologists say," failing, however, quote any actual criminologists on the matter.
An impulse to balance takes hold, however. Colleen immediately goes on to note that Pennsylvania, with laws Sarah Brady loves, has more police killings than the redneck places Sarah hates.
One paragraph approaches the meat of the argument: "Contributing to this year's spike are cases in which several officers were shot and killed in groups — the four officers last month outside Seattle; the four officers in Oakland, Calif., in March; three officers in Pittsburgh in April; and two officers in Okaloosa County, Fla., in April."
Yes indeedy. To wit:
--The four Lakewood officers were killed by a professional criminal turned loose from a 108-year prison sentence by a fellow named Mike Huckabee, R-Ark.
--The four Oakdale officers were gunned down by another parolee.
--The Pittsburgh killer of three cops had domestic abuse related non-contact order against him and was booted from the Marine Corps after just three weeks for, his friends say, assaulting a sergeant. The Marines won't specify the kind, but the friends say it was a dishonorable discharge.
Keeping track? That accounts for 11 of the 2009 deaths, two more than were required for Coleen's "24 per cent increase." And at least eight of those, possibly all 11, were killed by men clearly barred from firearms use by the laws of every state in the union and by the the federal government.
I offer this lengthy set of observations for your convenience, useful the first time you hear the AP story quoted as justification for some new weapons ban.