Following two mass shootings that occurred in less than 24 hours last week and resulted in over 30 people dead and dozens injured, The Washington Post published Sunday a list of all of the names of the victims of every mass shooting since 1966.
During that 54-year span, a total of 1,196 people have died at the hands of mass shooters, averaging 22 deaths per year via mass shooting over that period. Since the Sandy Hook massacre, which took place in December 2012, the average number of deaths per year from mass shootings is 64.
“Eleven hundred ninety-six,” the Post tweeted Sunday along with a photo of its published list of victims’ names. “That’s the number of names on this page. People who were doing ordinary things until they were shot to death by killers bent on mass fatalities. In today’s Washington Post, a special 12-page print section lists every mass shooting victim since 1966.”
In a follow-up tweet, the Post notes that the pace of mass shootings has significantly picked up since the horrific Sandy Hook shooting. “The pace of the deadliest public mass shootings has accelerated significantly in recent years,” the Post tweeted. “The 423 people represented here died between the Sandy Hook massacre and last weekend’s attack in Dayton, Ohio. They accounted for more than a third of the 1,196 killed since 1966.”
“This is a moment to reflect on the horrific human toll of mass shootings in our country and to remember the individuals whose lives were cut short,” said the Post’s Executive Editor Marty Baron.
Though the Post intended to underscore the severity of mass shootings with its publication of the names, the statistics prompted a flood of responses online from pro-Second Amendment advocates suggesting that the Post was actually undermining gun control advocates’ attempt to use mass shootings as a rationale for significantly restricting gun rights.
Many gun rights advocates stressed that while any death is tragic, particularly preventable ones, the total number of deaths from mass shootings has been relatively small compared to other national issues, including the opioid crisis and gang violence. As noted by The Daily Wire’s Emily Zanotti, opioid-related deaths reached nearly 50,000 in 2017 alone. Gun-related homicides in Chicago, largely the result of gang violence, came up in several responses, the city averaging over 600 homicides a year in recent years.
“Mass shootings are horrible, but your chances of being killed in one are about the same as being struck by lightning [49 per year],” wrote one gun control advocate. “Chicago has the same number of people killed about every two years. The USA is a massive country, 327 million people. This isn’t to under[mine] the severity of mass shootings, they are horrible and we all want to put a stop to them. However, putting a list of names of people killed over a 65 year period is pure sensationalism and an attempt to exaggerate the problem.”
“So far, 1636 people have been shot in Chicago this year. How many of those names have appeared in the Post?” wrote The Daily Caller’s Derek Hunter (h/t Twitchy). “If they don’t help the liberal agenda they don’t exist.”
For perspective on scale of deaths, some pointed to the number of unborn children aborted every year. According to the Guttmacher Institute, between 1973 and 2018, over 60 million abortions were performed, averaging 1.3 million abortions per year. “The trend on mass shootings is a serious issue, but I’m not sure that this is a good way to frame it,” wrote AG Conservative. “For context: Many on the left argue that late-term abortions are very rare and therefore not a big issue, but there are 10,000-12,000 such abortions every year.”
Others noted that gun control advocates’ renewed push for banning assault weapons ignores the prominence of other types of guns, particularly handguns, in mass shootings. A study by Statista released this year found that between 1982 and August 2019, handguns were used in 93 mass shooting incidents, shotguns in 26, and rifles in 45.
A few days after the tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Trump called for bipartisan action to help address the problem, particularly discussions about so-called “red flag” laws, which a growing number of Republicans have signaled that they are willing to consider.