Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 16th 2016 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 16, 2016
After the indiscriminate
shooting of club-goers
was over early Sunday in
Orlando, 49 people were dead.
When the official death toll came
out, media and experts almost
immediately declared it the dead-
liest mass shooting in US history,
surpassing the Virginia Tech shoot-
ing in 2007 that left 33 people dead.
But was this actually the deadliest
mass shooting in US history? The
short answer---yes, but it depends
on how a mass shooting is defined.
That definition has been the subject
of some contention.
In the aftermath of the Orlando
shooting, some publications called
the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890
the deadliest shooting in American
history. There, as many of 300---
mostly unarmed---Lakota Sioux men,
women, and children were killed at
the hands of the US 7th Cavalry
Regiment. It remains one of the
darkest chapters of US efforts to
suppress Native Americans, though
the 20 Medals of Honor that were
given to members of regiment for
their participation in the skirmish
have yet to be rescinded. But was it
the deadliest shooting incident?
One could even argue the deadliest
shooting in a single-day event in
the US was at the Battle of Antietam
during the Civil War in 1862, in
which 3,654 people died.
But these two events---Wounded
Knee and Antietam---were military
operations and would not qualify as
mass shootings, as most experts
"When we talk about mass killing,
we talk about it as criminal homi-
cide," James Alan Fox, a criminology
professor at Northeastern University
said. "And, generally, killing related
to military operations, wartime, etc,
is not criminal homicide. It s homi-
cide, but not criminal homicide."
Although there are times when
American troops kill civilians and
are prosecuted for it, like in the My
Lai Massacre during the Vietnam
War, the actions are still part of war.
Mass murder, Fox argues, has crim-
inal intent not related to the military.
But there is no one definition of
a mass shooting. The FBI defines it
as three or more people killed by a
shooter in a single event. The bureau
used to define mass shootings as the
killing of four or more people, but
Congress changed the designation
in a 2013 bill.
Mother Jones, in its mass-shooting
database, documents instances in
which at least four people were killed
in a single incident, in a public place,
in events that did not involve domes-
tic violence, gang violence, or an
armed robbery. USA Today, in its
tracker, also includes killings with
four or more victims, but includes
family killings and robberies.
But other trackers count shootings
without deaths. Since 2013, a group
of Reddit users have operated the
Mass Shooting Tracker, tallying
instances when four or more people
have been shot, and not necessarily
killed, in a single event. One founder
told The Trace in 2015 that "the goal
is to stop minimising these acts of
violence." Many media outlets have
picked up on this tracker and accept-
ed its definition. It s how The Wash-
ington Post could say the US was
averaging one mass shooting a day
at one point last year.
And even Fox, the Northeastern
University professor, has his own
definition. He views mass shootings
as when four or more people are
killed in a single incident. He also
argues that the Mass Shooting
Tracker index leads to "mass con-
fusion" since the vast majority of
events on the tracker do not involve
deaths, which he says paints a false
picture of gun violence in the US.
Most of the mass-shooting data-
bases were created in 2012, when
many mass shootings---from New-
town, Connecticut, to Oak Creek,
Wisconsin, to Aurora, Colorado---
received widespread media coverage.
Although the term "mass shootings"
has been in our vernacular since,
most notably, the 1940s, what we
now call mass shootings have
occurred for decades, even if we did-
n t track those incidents the way we
We don t have the historical con-
text to determine whether or not
mass shootings, whatever the def-
inition may be, are on the rise---
because there are likely hundreds of
mass shootings that were simply not
counted. What is clear is that mass
killing in different forms, whether
through guns, arson, or bombings,
have been part of US history.
The Orlando shooting is not the
biggest mass killing in US history.
That title would go to the Oklahoma
City bombing in 1995, where 168
people died. The 9/11 attacks would
not qualify since it was an act of
international terrorism, despite the
deaths of 2,977 people, not including
And the attack in Orlando may
be the deadliest mass shooting in
US history, but other shootings were
deadliest for specific locations. The
2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Ele-
mentary School, for example, where
27 people were killed, is the deadliest
mass shooting in a high school or
grade school in US history. But that
wasn t the deadliest mass killing at
a school in US history. In 1927, 58
people died in a firebombing at the
Bath Consolidated School in Michi-
But what do these titles matter?
Would these mass shootings or
killings be any less serious or tragic
if they weren t the deadliest? Fox,
the professor from Northeastern,
says our attention to records is an
obsession with consequences.
"Records are made to be broken,"
Fox says. "We keep on saying it and
there are other people who d like to
have that distinction of being the
Was Orlando the deadliest
mass shooting in US history?
Katherine Oni of Fort Myers, second from left, holds a candle during a vigil on Tuesday at FGCU's Veterans Pavillon.
Over 100 people paid their respects to those affected by the recent mass shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub,
Pulse. AP PHOTO
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