The American news website Slate.com has been keeping an informal tally since Dec. 14, 2012, and the number now stands at 8,238.
That particular date was the day that a gunman shot scores of children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
That number? The collection of gun-related deaths reported in the media ever since.
The list, Slate admits, is probably not complete: keeping track of every media outlet in the nation, when reports of deaths related to shootings can top 20 or more per day, is no easy task.
Not only that, there’s the issue of gun deaths that don’t make the daily news, particularly suicides. The U.S. Center for Disease Control has an estimated number for deaths by guns overall, and using those numbers, Slate estimates that there have been more than 24,580 gun-related deaths since Sandy Hook.
Monday, there was another mass shooting by a gunman in the U.S.: 12 people died at the Washington Navy Yard in a shooting that brought U.S. President Barack Obama to the airwaves, saying, “We still don’t know all the facts. But we do know that several people have been shot and some have been killed. … So we are confronting yet another mass shooting. And today it happened on a military installation in our nation’s capital.”
The sheer number of victims may make the attack particularly newsworthy, (13, including the gunman himself), but it’s interesting to have a look at where that fits in the overall numbers. The mass shooting was just half of the single-day gun deaths reported on in U.S. media (there were 26 deaths Monday alone) and, if you look back just one single day, there were 30 on Sunday, including a 16-year-old, a 13-year-old, a 12-year-old and a three-year old.
There were 34 on Saturday, 27 on Friday, 25 on Thursday — and the list goes on.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this never-ending tally is that there are still people in the United States who suggest that the solution is not fewer weapons or tighter regulation of weapons, but actually more firepower in the hands of more people.
It’s unlikely that the United States will ever get anywhere near the level of control over weapons that Canadians experience — the opposition to the now-decommissioned gun registry in this country was nothing like the storm that would erupt over anything like a similar proposal in the U.S.
But it does point out that exercising rights can have devastating costs.
The right to bear arms carries the clear cost that those who exercise that right may well also decide to use those weapons — weapons that are all too handy when tempers flare.
And when you actually stop and count the hard numbers involved — as Slate is doing, day by day, week by week — the tally can be downright staggering.
Twenty-six dead from gunshots in a single day?
By the numbers, it’s just business as usual.