Is 60 an epidemic?

In A Guide to Mass Shootings in America Mother Jones says we’ve had “an epidemic of such gun violence over the last three decades.

Of course, even one mass shooting is one too many, but does 60 or so over 30 years really justify calling mass shootings an epidemic? The fact that 800 or so people lost their lives in these shootings is completely tragic and I’m not trying to trivialize the depth of that loss.

But I am calling for a little perspective: in that same period of time in the United States, there have been at least a couple of thousand people killed by lightning.

According to the New York Times, about 5,000 people in the U.S. die of food poisoning every year. If that average holds true over the last three decades that would translate to about 150,000 deaths.

And from 1976 to 2006 somewhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people died of the common flu.

Would we say that deaths by lightning, food poisoning, or flu are epidemic?

Probably not.

Then maybe we shouldn’t apply the word to these 60 horrible, but very uncommon, tragedies.

7 comments August 8th, 2012


Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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