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.
America’s deadliest mass and spree shootings:
• 1949, Camden, New Jersey, 13 killed. Howard Unruh, a World War II veteran, walks the streets of Camden killing random people.
• 1966, Austin, Texas, 18 killed. Charles Whitman fires from a tower on the University of Texas campus.
• 1982, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 13 killed. George Banks kills five of his children and 8 other people.
• 1984, San Ysidro, California, 21 killed. James Huberty enters a McDonald’s and begins shooting.
• 1986, Edmond, Oklahoma,14 killed. Postal worker Patrick Sherrill kills 14 people at his workplace.
• 1990, Jacksonville, Florida, 10 killed. James Pough kills 8 people after his car is repossessed. He’d killed two others earlier.
• 1991, Killeen, Texas, 23 killed. George Hennard drives his truck into a cafeteria and then opens fire.
• 1999, Littleton, Colorado, 13 killed. The shooting at Columbine High School was the deadliest school shooting to date.
• 1999, Atlanta, 12 killed. Mark Barton kills nine people at brokerage firms in Atlanta after having killed three relatives.
• 2005, Red Lake, Minnesota, 9 killed. Jeffrey Weise kills members of his family and then students at a local high school.
• 2007, Blacksburg, Virginia, 32 killed. Until 2016, the 32 people killed by Seung-Hui Cho was the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
• 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, 13 killed. Nidal Hasan kills 13 people at Fort Hood.
• 2009, Binghamton, New York, 13 killed. Jiverly Wong murders 13 people at a small immigrant services center in southern New York.
• 2009, Geneva County, Alabama, 10 killed. Michael McClendon kills 10 people, including a baby, in rural Alabama.
• 2012, Newtown, Connecticut, 27 killed. Adam Lanza’s spree at Sandy Hook Elementary including the murder of 20 children.
• 2012, Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed. James Holmes kills a dozen people during a late-night movie screening.
• 2013, Washington, D.C., 12 killed. Aaron Alexis kills a dozen people with a shotgun.
• 2015, San Bernardino, Calif. 14 killed. Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik kill more than a dozen people during a holiday party.
• 2015, Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed. Chris Mercer kills nine in a shooting at a community college in Oregon.
• 2015, Charleston, South Carolina, 9 killed. Dylann Roof attends a prayer meeting at a church in Charleston before opening fire.
• 2016, Orlando, 49 killed. Omar Mateen murders dozens at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando after pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.
• 2017, Las Vegas, 50 killed. Stephen Paddock shoots at a concert crowd from a hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip.