This week’s fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers are deeply disturbing examples of the disproportionate, unacceptable levels of gun violence the African-American community is subject to in America today. Deadly force should never be a first resort, especially by those sworn to protect our citizens.
Gun violence is a complex problem that manifests itself in nearly every area of American life. We experience mass shootings, domestic violence shootings, accidental shootings, suicidal shootings, gang-related shootings, bias-driven shootings, terrorist shootings, “stand-your-ground” shootings, shootings by law enforcement… 117,000 of us are shot every year. No other industrialized nation has this problem. America—all of us—must do more, right now, to address the deadly role guns play in our society, especially for African-American men, who make up only 6% of the population but account for 51% of all homicide victims. It just isn’t right.
Here at the Law Center, we recognize that law enforcement is a key ally in fostering public safety and supporting the smart gun laws and community intervention programs our staff and members tirelessly advocate for. We also understand that with the proliferation of so many guns on our streets, being a police officer is a dangerous job. Yet it’s clear that systemic reforms are needed in order to ensure that deadly force is only ever used as an absolute last resort.
To help the public get a grasp on the scope of the problem, the Washington Post maintains a comprehensive database of fatal police shootings. 509 so far this year. We need to be better than this.