Civilians are Safer than Police

Arguing The Case For Police Accountability – Part 1Arguing The Case For Police Accountability – Part 1
By Rob Morse

Because armed citizen’s encounter so many criminals, over two million each year, civilians also shoot and kill more criminals than do the police.
Slow Facts
Slow Facts

Southern California –-( respect my friends in the gun culture, but gun-control politicians sure don’t.  These politicians put the police on a pedestal when it suits them.  (1)

These politicians write gun laws that often exempt the police or demand that civilians match the standards set for police.

I don’t know what is so special about law enforcement officers that civilian gun owners should imitate them.  A badge doesn’t suddenly make people more responsible or better shots.  I think the gun grabbing politicians have it backwards.  Civilians with a concealed carry license are more responsible and law abiding than cops based on the data!  These civilians obey laws in general, and firearms laws in particular, better than the police.

Said another way, society would be safer if the police were able to match the record set by civilians with concealed carry licenses.  That isn’t what politicians tell us.

Civilians, not the police, are the usual targets of crime.  Everyday civilians are violently attacked a few million times each year.  We could save thousands of victims if we make civilians even slightly safer.  The average criminal leaves a long wake of citizen-victim’s before the criminal finally meets a police officer.  Most criminals commit twenty to thirty crimes before they are arrested.  Stated precisely, civilians have many more contacts with criminals, and therefore the necessity to defend themselves, than do police.  Armed civilians don’t shoot criminals very often despite the vast number of contacts between them.  That makes sense and is an important point.  It is true that each policeman meets more criminals than the average civilian, so law enforcement officers give us a good point of reference about self-defense.  Policemen are very glad they can protect themselves with a firearm even though they will probably never have to shoot someone during their entire career.

That brings two things to mind:

  • First, I want law enforcement officers to have the tools they need for their own safety.
  • Second, I’m glad the police seldom have to use lethal force.

Civilians deserve the same range of options, particularly since they encounter criminals twenty to thirty times more often than the police.  Fortunately for the armed citizen, criminals are consistent in one regard.  Few criminals press their attack when they face an armed victim just as most criminals stop when faced by an armed police officer.  For the civilian, presenting a weapon in the face of an immediate violent threat is enough to stop most crimes.  Gun control politicians ignore that fact and tell us we would be safer if we were helpless victims.  Fortunately, most Americans are not helpless.

Because armed citizen’s encounter so many criminals, over two million each year, civilians also shoot and kill more criminals than do the police.  This is astounding because civilians and police have very different roles and training.  The police want to apprehend a criminal while the citizen simply wants the criminal to go away.  Permit holders and police are trained differently; police are trained to control the encounter while civilians are trained to retreat and diffuse a potentially violent situation.  Even though lethal encounters are rare, civilians are forced to defend themselves with lethal force more often than police because of their very large number of criminal contacts.  It is the ordinary civilians who live on the cutting edge of self-defense, not the police.

It is a strong testament to human nature and good firearms training that armed civilians do the right thing so often.  The licensed concealed carry holder is much less likely to shoot the wrong person compared to the police.  The trained law enforcement officer is over five times more likely to shoot the wrong person than a concealed permit holders, 11 percent versus 2 percent. 

The gun control politician doesn’t talk about that.  They don’t mention when the police shoot an unarmed and innocent hostage.  They don’t mention when the Philadelphia police shoot seven people in a week and kill four of them.

Some states and the District of Columbia propose that gun owners must carry firearms liability insurance.  The price of that insurance should be much higher for police officers than for CCW holders.  I’ll argue that permit holders should be paid since they reduce the overall level of crime more effectively than the police.

Yes, CCW carriers are more law abiding than police.  They have a lower rate of conviction for alcohol, firearms or battery than police. 

Police vs Civilian Crime Chart
Police vs Civilian Crime Chart


Note in this graph civilians are several times more law abiding for sexual assault and homicide.  The crime rate for police is very similar to the general population for other crimes.  In contrast, permit holders in North Carolina commit violent crimes with a firearm 82 percent less often than the average citizen and are convicted of a DUI 85 percent less often than the general population.  I can’t find data for every state, but  Texas permit holders are much safer too.

It matters.  Unarmed civilians are shot in Washington, DC (video) where civilians are not allowed to carry firearms in public.  Hundreds of citizens are murdered in Chicago (video).  Some are even shot in gun-free New York city.  The laws that gun-grabbing politicians and some law enforcement executives want to spread across the US will lead to more deaths.

That is wrong.  We should save lives instead.  I have no tolerance for gun-grabbers who lead us to more murders.


(1) I compete against police officers on the weekend.  They have a tough job, but don’t shoot like superheroes.


About Rob Morse:
By day, Rob Morse works in Southern California as a mild mannered engineer for a defense contractor. By night he writes about gun rights at Ammoland, at Gun Rights Magazine, and writes the SlowFacts blog. . He also loves the M1911 and shoots combat handgun on the weekends.

  • 20 thoughts on “Civilians are Safer than Police

    1. I think I’ll note the unspoken words: A criminal has 6th amendment rights, whether you like it or not.

      The intent of concealed carry is not to stop crime, it isn’t to apprehend criminals either. The intent is to provide a means of protection to the individual and/or others should the need arise. The problem is the easiest way of providing protection to yourself is to remove yourself from the situation, but employing a gun requires you to engage yourself in the situation.

      Hence the flaw in your argument. Police are paid to engage criminals while respecting a criminal’s right to life AND are harshly judged by society. If a police officer shoots an unarmed criminal, we get an uproar; but if a CCP shoots a criminal, he’s a hero.

      The tone of the article indicates you hold police to higher standards than the neighborhood watch, in terms of preservation of life. Since this is unfair treatment of a minority (police officers), you have to choose between modifying the 6th amendment and forgiving officers for the same actions taken by civilians, or penalize civilians who do not do their best to preserve the life of a criminal.

    2. I just want to point out something about the bottom part of that graph. You’re implying that the more cops there are, the more crime there is. This is a case of correlation without causation.You bring out your umbrella when it rains but you don’t say that the umbrella caused the rain do u? Wouldn’t u expect there to be more police where there is more crime? I mean they’re trying to do their job in protecting you ( this is in it of istelf another topic) but in the longer term, there have been no studies that have stated that cops are the cause of crime.

    3. I just want to point out something about the bottom part of that graph. You’re implying that the more cops there are, the more crime there is. This is a case of correlation without causation.You bring out your umbrella when it rains but you don’t say that the umbrella caused the rain do u? The case is the same in this. Wouldn’t u expect there to be more policemen in areas of more crime?

    4. “Good luck with private security”

      “Many (NOT ALL) private security officers in my jurisdiction are ex-police officers that were canned for unethical behavior. They are the ‘bad eggs’ I referred to that we weed out.”

      Why should I accept this quip and casual observation as indicative of a greater overall trend? And does it necessarily follow that those “bad eggs” have thus continued to act badly under a competitive system, wherein the security firm must obtain its funding by satisfying the needs of the consumer? What is the likelihood that a number of competitive firms would be more corrupt than a monopolistic agency which acquires its funding and hence its “market share” via the threat of initiating force? Certainly the associated incentives point towards the monopoly scenario producing more corruption. Likewise, if the police are so great, then why must their services be acquired under the threat of initiating force? Wouldn’t people be willing to pay for such “services” voluntarily if they were as desirable as claimed? If not, then why don’t people need to be forced to pay for the services of other dangerous professions (miners, under-water welders, skyscraper window washers, private bounty hunters, etc.)?

      “anyone in their right mind wouldn’t do it for the wages that private security officers get”

      But people are already doing it for the wages that private security officers get (which is implied in your argument), so I don’t see how this is relevant. Isn’t this but a personal value judgment, the words of which you are simply putting into the mouths of others? That said, if government security was eliminated, wouldn’t that mean that all the money that was previously confiscated to fund government security would now be available to fund private security, if so desired? And under a competitive system, might security firms be more efficient, thus reducing costs and freeing up even more funds? Might it be the case that, under a competitive market, the best and the brightest would be sufficiently rewarded for their work? If not, how might security firms attract the best and the brightest to work for them? Again, how do other employers attract workers to perform dangerous tasks?

      “or are so naive that they get themselves hurt, or are incapable of making sound decisions in intense and rapidly evolving situations.”

      How is this an argument, as opposed to a mere personal attack and fear-mongering?

    5. This article is written by an individual that knows absloutely ZERO about policing and the use of Deadly Force. Get back in your little bubble!

    6. @Darren…Good luck with private security…guess who our private security calls when they need help? Yep the REAL police. Many (NOT ALL) private security officers in my jurisdiction are ex-police officers that were canned for unethical behavior. They are the ‘bad eggs’ I referred to that we weed out. You think you know what is better but I’m telling you police officers have a lot of power and authority and anyone in their right mind wouldn’t do it for the wages that private security officers get. Without a decent wage – the heightened potential for prosecution, lawsuits and death or great bodily harm, coupled with the they many mean and nasty criminals we deal with everyday – would deter most of those with righteous intentions from becoming a police officer. So, in the end you are then left with people who are a stones throw away from being criminals themselves, or are so naive that they get themselves hurt, or are incapable of making sound decisions in intense and rapidly evolving situations.

    7. You have some good points that are valid. I’ve written about my frustrations as a firearms instructor. Out of curiosity, I see that that chart came from Cato Institute but when I try to find that statisticai report from which that information was pulled (by clicking on their link) it doesn’t take me to the source and I couldn’t find it on the website either.

      As a Sergeant with 16+ years of service who has spent numerous hours compiling and researching use of force for my agency (in a city that ranks in the top 10 for violent crime per capita in the US) I will point out an oversight with that chart. That chart is based on the UCR, understand that not all police departments report that information (it depends on agency size), so the information is not complete. The DOJ actually warns about making judgements or ranking based on the UCR alone. My agency does not report to the UCR, it reports to NIBRS, so there are a number of agencies moving to NIBRS reporting. You might wonder why…it’s because UCR is NOT comprehensive on crime reporting. For example, if five police officers are murdered on the same call, as has been the case with ambushes lately, it is recorded in the UCR as one incident of murder. Likewise only the highest (or worst crime) UCR is collected, so lesser included crimes to other officers are not included. That’s why the federal government is trying to get agencies to move from UCR reporting to NIBRS. I find it seriously questionable that those numbers are close to correct because I have never heard of a police officer being sexually assaulted…I’ve heard of some being accused of doing it sadly…maybe groping and the such occur in other agencies but in Illinois that would be recorded as battery and it would be hard to prove the sexual arousal requirement. None the less, I have only ever experienced violent crime as a police officer, and I’ve had plenty. Also, realize that people lie for a variety of reasons and it is really rare for true victims. Most of the time people are victimized because of drug deals, or other vice-type crimes. Most victims are also perpetual victims, and constantly report crimes – sometimes weekly. If the data was better I bet a whole other picture would emerge, Im telling you as a police officer and a civilian it is rare to be victimized, but I still believe that everyone has the right to protect themselves and should! I think most officers feel likewise, especially given the reduction in staffing.

      Its too bad there is so much hate for police on these responses…ergo demonstrating that police are NOT treated special. I know there are ‘bad eggs’ but I have seen few in my career…the good ones weed out the bad ones. The sentiments and stereotyping is saddening to me having given 11 years of my life to the Army and 16.4 years as a police officer, only ever wanting to help people. It gets old to be thrown into a category based on what people see on the news (which only is newsworthy because its of the rarity of the occurrence) or someone’s bad experience with one officer. I guess police officers are the only category of human beings that it is still socially acceptable to stereotype against…hmmm.

    8. Too many LEO’s today are wannabe special ops or seals , To many of them ” to protect and serve ” has morphed into ” harasse and intimidate ” . This is not to take away from the thousands of good cops , but many of them need to police their own ranks better . Furthermore , I personally will never trust a LEO that is NOT a member of ” OATHKEEPERS ” .

    9. I should add: I’ve lived in a mid-size suburb on the border of Chicago for over 45 years and have called the police just twice, both times concerning unknown people attempting to enter my home. Both times the police arrived within a minute. The police in my town are supurbly trained, friendly and helpful. I understand that not all municipalities have such a respectable force, but putting down police in general because of the mismanagement of a few departments is wrong-headed.

      One responder asks for replacement of the “government” police for private security forces. And who will oversee those private forces? I suppose the idea is that everybody be armed, a gun being cheaper than a private guard. Good luck when you shoot an intruder who is looking for your money and a dozen of his friends come looking for you.

    10. This is a most extreme misuse of raw statistics. Indicating that a criminal interacts with a civilian twenty to thirty times for each interaction with a police officer, whether an accurate statistic or not, dismisses the salient fact that there are about 256 police officers per 100,000 population in the US—indicating that it is about 390 times as likely that a criminal would randomly interact with a civilian than a member of the police. With that in mind, according to the statistic given in the article, we see that police officers, on an individualbasis, have thirteen to twenty times more criminal interactions than civilians.
      The chart indicates that, per 100,000 people, there are 31.7 homicides committed by police vs. 5.4 by ordinary citizens—a ratio of 6.9 times as many by police. I suspect that job stress and other job related factors in police work contribute the this excess, but the fact that virtually every police officer has a firearm available when off duty and less than 30% of the non-police civilian population owns one (and many fewer carry outside the home) will account for at least 70% of the excess of police-committed homicides, and much more, depending on what proportion of the homicides are committed outside the home.
      I think the main lesson to be taken is simply this: the more guns available to more people in all situations, the more firearm violence will be created. Most of the violence will be created by people who are prone to violence; the will be the first to carry concealed; they will be the ones who will shoot without compunction—their more non-violent, timid, counterparts who carry will be on the losing end of a showdown with a criminal who is always ready to shoot first.

      As concealed carry law becomes more prevalent I suspect the rate of civilian homicide will rise. My biggest concern is that at some point a critical “tipping point” will be reached in the proportion of concealed carrying civilians in a large gathering; someone, for some reason, will draw and fire and a major shooting event will occur with disasterous consequences.

    11. I too am a retired police officer with over 30 years of experience. Unlike Jere Joiner though, I won’t quit in order to somehow punish Ammoland.(?) In my 30 years on the streets, I’ve had to draw my sidearm countless times, but discharged it only twice (not counting range), both times found justified by prosecutors and grand jury, and once by FBI Civil Rights Div.

      Some folks can manipulate statistics to help them make a point. While it is true that as a group,”civilians” encounter criminals much more often than police officers as a group, but for individuals it is likely a once in a lifetime event. How many times a day does the average “civilian” seek out criminals for the purpose of taking away their physical freedom? A responsible armed “civilian” uses avoidance to stay away from trouble, while police officers are tasked with seeking out dangerous people and situations. That police officers as a group use deadly force much less than do “civilians,” is a testament to training, sound judgement and the quality of those who serve. Often times a uniformed officer simply showing up will stop unlawful behavior. Command presence is something taught in the basic police academy.

      Sadly, most folks form their opinions about police work and police officers from entertainment media. As we know, the media is primarily ratings based entertainment and therefore presents a distorted view of reality. Even the so-called “reality shows,” aren’t reality. I’ve been filmed by a popular “reality” police show, and have seen what really happens before and after the cameras roll and the editing begins.

      As a life-long shooter and vigorous supporter of an armed, polite society, a life member of NRA and a member of Second Amendment Foundation, I believe police and the people whom we serve should strive to work together to help make our nation a safer place. Let’s stop the divisive “them vs. us” mentality and instead focus on maintaining our God given rights together as a united force against evil.

    12. @Jere…..
      I am a Police officer, there for you may not point out statisics that show that police officers commit crimes. Your comment exposes the point of the Article. Police Offices are not special, they have no more individual rights then the everyday citizen and they posses no special powers. Citizens excercising their rights (this includes citizens who happen to be professional police officers) are the answer to what ails this country. get off your high horse Jere

    13. In regards to Jere Joiner and his comment. I have called law enforcement for many different problems through the years. I have yet to receive any help from the different law enforcement persons. I have been having several problems with law-breakers for the past 13 years where I live, which is a rural area five miles from the nearest town. Approximately one year ago I made a complaint to the parish law enforcement and even the town police showed up. Needless to say I have almost always been treated like I am a constant complainer and that I am the lawbreaker. The police that I have met in my area treat you like you have bothered them. My complaints to the police? 4 wheelers driving on public highway, loud music (boom-boom amps) that can be heard for a mile or so, racing 4 wheelers, 4 wheelers with the muffler off, Ninja type motorcycles racing and driving way too fast, Loud music with profanity and sexual phrases which I refuse my 2 grandson’s to ever hear again, illegal firearms shooting, horses loose on my property, hog loose on my property, burning rubber and racing of vehicles. Not once has any of the neighbors been ticketed or charged with wrongdoing.

    14. I am a retired police officer with almost 30 years of service. I carry concealed in my retirement and support the right of law abiding citizens to carry concealed. I do NOT appreciate the slant of this article but support the right of the author to say anything he wants. Having said that, I will now exercise my right to cancel Ammoland and any other publication featuring articles by Rob Morse. He may be a fine fellow but he clearly doesn’t understand what police officers do. For cops firearms are a tool. We don’t obsess about them but try to be as efficient as possible given the other requirements of the job. Adios, Ammoland. Get a life, Mr. Morse, and may you never need the services of a cop. But if you do, I hope one is there for you. God bless.

    15. The police are civilians with a badge and yes the civilians without a badge are more effective at preventing crime than the badge carrying civilians.

    16. I have found that the schools in this country are brain washing our youth about the role firearms play in self defense. One young person I talked to thinks you need military training to carry a gun. I told her…”that would be good, but is not needed. We have very good training;its called practice.”

    17. Overall a great article exposing the fact that the police are dangerous. What I don’t get is how someone knowing that still supports the police. We need to phase out govt policing in favor of private security arrangements.

    18. I believe this article to be VERY Truthful. The Bottom line is the anti gun people, do not care about FACTS, they ignore them. Their mind is conditioned to shut them out as quickly as it can. They hate Guns. Truthfully Forrest Morgan.

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