By Philip Bump
The mass shooting that killed at least 50 people in Las Vegas on Sunday night was the worst in modern American history. Police suspect that Stephen Paddock fired on the crowd at a country-music concert indiscriminately from his hotel room window, killing dozens and injuring hundreds more.
If it seems as though we only just experienced another deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, it’s because we did. About 16 months ago, Omar Mateen killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. Before that, the record was held by the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, in which 32 people were killed.
Obviously any new “deadliest incident” will have more deaths than the ones that came before. From 1949 to 1991, though, the increase in the number of deaths was only nine. The shooting at Virginia Tech was more than double that in Camden in 1949. The killings in Orlando added 17 more deaths to the total. How many will end up as victims in Las Vegas isn’t yet known – but it’s already twice the toll of the deadliest shooting in history as of 11 years ago.
That the most recent incident to set a new record was only 16 months ago may have been a grim fluke; these incidents are too few to draw a real pattern in that regard.
That the next incident to establish itself as the deadliest in American history will mean that more than 50 people will have given their lives, though, is only slightly less alarming than the near-certainty that there will be a next incident.