The casualties of the October 1 shooting in Las Vegas more closely resemble the aftermath of a major military operation than a random act of violence by a lone gunman. As of this writing, at least 59 people have been killed and 527 wounded in the massacre—not counting its perpetrator, Stephen Paddock, who committed suicide shortly after.
That’s approximately 587 people killed or wounded by one man—a white, middle-aged, non-Muslim, native-born US citizen—in less than two hours time. Also, judging from the vast cache of rifles, ammunition, and telescopic sights recovered by law enforcers after the shooting, Paddock appeared capable of killing and/or maiming many more that evening.
Is Paddock’s Las Vegas massacre the deadliest mass shooting in US history? As Vox observed, “it’s complicated.” The 1873 Colfax Massacre and 1917 East St. Louis riots both resulted in higher death tolls, but neither incidents were the work of just one person. Far from it, when the total number of dead and wounded are added together, Paddock’s one-man massacre appears to have more in common with some of the most gruesome battles in US history.
- The battles of Lexington & Concord (April 19, 1775), which left 88 colonists dead or wounded.
- The battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775), which left 440 Americans dead or wounded.
- The battle of Saratoga (September 19 – October 7, 1777) - 330 dead or wounded
- The siege of Yorktown (September 28 – October 19, 1781) - 389 dead or wounded
- The battle of New Orleans (January 8 – 26, 1815) - 240 dead or wounded
- The battle of the Alamo (February 23 – March 6, 1836) - 182 to 257 defenders dead
- The defense of Little Round Top (June 2, 1863) - 536 Union soldiers dead or wounded
- The battle of the Little Bighorn (June 25 – 26, 1876) - 317 dead or wounded
- The Wounded Knee Massacre (December 29, 1890) - over 400 dead or wounded, including 200 Lakota women and children
And from more recent history:
- The battle of Midway (June 4 – 7, 1942) - 307 dead
- The battle of Hamburger Hill (May 10 – 20, 1969) - 444 dead or wounded
- The battle of Mogadishu (Oct 3, 1993 – Oct 4, 1993) - 92 dead or wounded
- The Second Battle of Fallujah, main attack (November 7 – 16, 2004) - 479 dead or wounded
- The Battle of Ramadi (June 17 – November 15, 2006) - over 280 killed or wounded
Even the combined casualties of all four hijacked flights on 9/11 (American Airlines Flight 11, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93, and United Airlines Flight 175), which claimed 246 victims, was exceeded by the total killed or wounded by Paddock in two hours at Las Vegas. The same goes for the 231 killed or wounded at the Pentagon on 9/11, even when added to the 246 airborne victims of the 19 hijackers.
If it seems grim to analyze so many victims of gun violence no differently from numbers on a calculator, it should. It’s hard to imagine any of the Founding Fathers envisioned one man causing more casualties than the colonists suffered at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill combined. Of course, it is similarly unlikely that the Founders envisioned the Bill of Rights being applied to blacks or women, but that’s because we are better stewards of those rights than they were—or at least we ought to be.
The victims of tomorrow do not need prayers, they need protection. There is a battle raging throughout the United States right now, and what happened in Las Vegas was not the “miracle” Trump pretend it is. It was a massacre, and one that could become as commonplace as any crime.