Police shootings are also part of America's gun problem – Vox – Vox

When Sacramento, California, police officers on March 18 confronted Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s backyard, they appeared to believe that he was holding a gun. In the dark of night, they opened fire — shooting 20 rounds and hitting the 22-year-old eight times, mostly from the back, according to an autopsy commissioned by the family.

It turned out, though, that the officers had made a huge mistake: What they thought was a firearm was actually a cellphone.

This kind of situation isn’t new. Officers have shot people after mistaking wrenches and badges for guns. Cops have shot people thinking that they’re reaching for a firearm when they’re really pulling up loose-fitting shorts. Police have shot multiple people thinking that a toy gun was a real firearm.

Behind all these incidents lies what seems to be a constant fear that a gun may be present.

According to criminal justice and policing experts, police have good reason to be fearful. The US has a tremendous amount of civilian-owned guns — far more than any other country in the world. Based on recent estimates, there are more firearms in America than there are people. That presents a constant potential threat to police.

“Police officers in the United States in reality need to be conscious of and are trained to be conscious of the fact that literally every single person they come in contact with may be carrying a concealed firearm,” David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College, told me. “That’s true for a 911 call. It’s true for a barking dog call. It’s true for a domestic violence incident. It’s true for a traffic stop. It’s true for everything.”

This is one potential reason, experts said, that the US has far more police shootings than other developed nations. A 2015 analysis by

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