Law enforcement deaths in the line of duty rose 13% this year to 173—the second sharp rise since 2009's 50-year-low, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Gunfire claimed the lives of 68 officers, making this the first year since 1997 in which more law enforcement officers died in shootings than in traffic accidents, CNN reports. The deadliest year for shooting deaths of law enforcement officers in the US was 1973, when 156 officers were shot and killed
The memorial's fund chairman blamed the rise in deaths on budget cuts, noting that close to 10,000 police officers and sheriff deputies were laid off this year. "Our officers are facing a more brazen, cold-blooded element, and fighting a war on terror, and we’re giving them less training and less equipment than they need to do their jobs safely," he said. Attorney General Eric Holder—blaming the "devastating and unacceptable" rise in deaths on illegal firearms—vowed that the Justice Department would do everything possible to keep police officers safe.