Fact: Police are Much More Likely to Shoot the Wrong Person than Armed Citizens

One of the recurring anti gun arguments that I hear centers on the mistaken belief that gun owners will end up shooting an innocent person (such as a child, bystander, etc.) when trying to defend themselves against a criminal.  The fact is that armed citizens are about 5.5 times less likely than the police to accidentally shoot the wrong person.

[A]lthough only 2 percent of those involved in civilian shootings are misidentified, 11 percent of individuals involved in police shootings were later found to be innocents misidentified as criminals.

There could be several reasons why this is the case.  First, it could be that the police are more willing to use force, as police officers who use force tend to run less of a risk of facing criminal charges than ordinary citizens who use force.  Secondly, it could be that police are called into a situation where they don’t know the people in the home and therefore are not as able to identify who is a “good guy” and who is a “bad guy.”   Thirdly, it could be that police have less of a personal stake in the outcome of the shooting, while a person whose children could be in the home would seem to have a stronger interest in making sure they don’t unintentionally shoot their own child [note: I’m not saying police would like to shoot a person’s child, but that a child’s mother or father almost always love that child more than a cop who has never before met the child]. Regardless of the underlying reason, the fact remains that when an ordinary citizen draws his or her gun, he or she is much less likely to shoot an innocent person than when a cop draws his or her gun.

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Stories in the news abound with cases of cops shooting the wrong person, be it a woman who is cooperating, an innocent bystander who is not involved at all, a suspect who is face down, or just someone whose skin is the wrong color.  The fact is that while police serve an important role in society, interactions with them can be dangerous, even for law abiding citizens.  That is why while I hope to never have to fire a gun in self defense, I would much rather shoot in self defense than have armed police officers open fire in my vicinity, even if they are trying their best to stop a criminal.