Is 60 an epidemic?

August 8th, 2012

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.

Entry Filed under: Observations

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Debunked  |  August 9th, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I’m not sure if 60 over 30yrs is an epidemic but I’m fairly certain five topics over 24 hours is!

  • 2. Elliot  |  August 9th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Yeah, I went a little crazy…which is oddly appropriate given the topic. ;)

  • 3. John Foust  |  August 9th, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    If someone was directing that lightning and zapping six or thirty people at a time, or if someone was purposefully delivering food poison on such a scale, then you’d have a comparison.

  • 4. Roland Melnick  |  August 10th, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Clearly we need to outlaw food poisoning and ban lightning.

  • 5. John Foust  |  August 10th, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Roland, I didn’t say that, of course, but feel free to ignore the question at hand. Today’s guns might be fun for plinking, might assist your fantasy that they’ll protect you when you need it, or your fantasy that you’ll prevent a crime, but they also make it possible to attack a crowd.

    How does your use of a fake name protect you, Roland?

  • 6. Roland Melnick  |  August 11th, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    You chiding someone for straying off topic is hilarious, John, since that’s the #1 reason you’ve been banned at several blogs.

    What difference does it make what screen name I use? My opinion is what it is. I don’t see you making an issue about anyone else’s.

    As to the question at hand, I don’t believe it fits the criteria of epidemic. Far more people are killed by drunk drivers, yet I don’t see too many people calling for a return to Prohibition.

    Disgusting? Yes.
    Appalling? Yes.
    Senseless? Yes.
    Cowardly? Yes.
    Epidemic? No.

    For some people, self-defense is a real concern. Belittling it as fantasy is to ignore those examples out there where people have defended themselves.

  • 7. John Foust  |  August 11th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Of course some people need a gun for self-defense. I’d also say there are many who bought a gun because it fulfills their fantasies. I don’t see many people who harbor a fantasy of plowing their car into a crowd so they can kill six or ten people, yet we see many more who dreamed of doing that with a gun.

    People are banned from blogs for being off-topic? That’s quite the fanciful assertion you have. It’s based on what? I don’t recall anyone ever telling me I was banned because I was off-topic.

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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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