USA Today reports that the number of justifiable homicides committed by police and private citizens has been rising in the past two years to their highest levels in more than a decade, reflecting a shoot-first philosophy in dealing with crime. The 391 killings by police that were ruled justifiable in 2007 were the most since 1994, FBI statistics show. The 254 killings by private individuals found to be self-defense were the most since 1997.
Some law enforcement analysts say the numbers represent changing attitudes on the streets, where police have felt more threatened by well-armed offenders, and citizens have taken greater responsibility for their own safety. Northeastern University Professor James Alan Fox describes an emerging “shoot-first” mentality by police and private citizens. Alfred Blumstein, a Carnegie Mellon University criminologist, says the gun “legalization movement” also may have helped create a greater willingness among citizens to act in self-defense. Forty-eight states now provide various rights to carry firearms.