The mass shooting in Las Vegas on Sunday night, which left 59 people dead and more than 520 injured, was the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States.
This phrasing is important and omnipresent in articles reporting on the shooting, to give scale to the attack and give weight to the significance, especially as it has renewed a conversation about gun control in the country.
There are also a number of other mass killings in America’s history that were on a way greater scale than the one in las vegas.
For example, historians believe that more than 300 people died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1921 when white people torched the area’s African American neighborhoods.
Victims described fleeing with their families “amidst showers of bullets from the machine gun”.
In addition, U.S. Army soldiers killed 200 Native Americans with machine guns at South Dakota’s Wounded Knee Creek on 29 December 1890.
In 1873, Easter Sunday, race gunned down and hanged as several as 150 African Americans in Colfax, Louisiana.
The reason the term “modern American history” is often used in articles is possible because accurate death tolls around mass killings only became common in the 20th century, and Historians still debate the exact number of victims in earlier tragedies.
There is also an issue of determining whether historical events fit present definitions of a mass shooting. We still struggle today to affix labels to mass killings.
the term `mass killings’ means three or more killings in a single incident in a place of public use.
People have also observed a racially-charged element to this separation of timelines – that American society likes to think of those mass murders as belonging to a historical timeline that has not continued to the present day.
However, prejudice still drives these events – you only have to look at the Orlando nightclub shooting as recently as last year to see evidence of this.