Incidents Involving Police & Assault Weapons Are on the Rise

| by Violence Policy Center

WASHINGTON -- More than one out of four assault weapons incidents involve police, according to “Target: Law Enforcement—Assault Weapons in the News” ( a new study released today by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The study, based on reports in the news of assault weapons incidents over a two-year span, is a snapshot of the effect of America’s laissez-faire policy toward these deadly military-style weapons.

The study found that the percentage of assault weapons incidents involving police rose significantly between the two periods studied: March 1, 2005 to February 28, 2006, and March 1, 2006 to February 28, 2007. Police were involved in 29 of 117 incidents (24.8 percent) in the first period and 35 of 118 incidents (29.7 percent) in the second period—an increase of 20.7 percent between the two periods. Other findings include the following.

-- Shots were fired from assault weapons (other than police weapons) in three out of every four reported incidents involving police.

-- Gangs were reported to be involved in one out of five of the reported incidents involving assault weapons.

-- Assault weapons incidents frequently result in deaths or injuries. At least one victim was killed in 86 out of 235 reported incidents (36.6 percent). A total of 115 deaths were reported for the 86 incidents.

-- AK-47 type rifles were the type of assault weapon most often named in reports. SKS rifles were the second most often named type.

Tom Diaz, VPC senior policy analyst and author of the study states, “This snapshot of assault weapon violence makes clear that these guns pose a clear and continued threat to law enforcement. State and federal policymakers should move quickly to protect the public servants who protect us by passing effective legislation to restrict these military-bred weapons.”

The report is based on a compilation of information derived from multiple searches, using a variety of terms, of reports published in U.S. news media and included in the commercial database Nexis. The use of such surrogate data is necessary because there is no national database that comprehensively tracks deaths and injuries from specific types and models of firearms. As a result, the data contained in the study represents the minimal number of incidents involving assault weapons.