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Why we shouldn't forget 'modern' when describing the 'deadliest shooting in modern US history'

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Posted at 8:44 AM, Oct 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-05 08:44:07-04

LAS VEGAS -- We've seen the phrase "deadliest shooting in U.S. history" splashed across screens and uttered nonstop since Sunday's shooting outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel.

With 59 dead and more than 520 injured, it was shockingly tragic, but Time Magazine's writer Olivia Waxman is arguing a better phrase may be "deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history."

"Mass shooting is really a new name for a very old, familiar problem," criminologist Grant Duwe told Time

"Prior to the 20th century a lot of mass killings were (orchestrated by) the 'haves' murdering the 'have nots,'" Duwe said. In more recent history, "what we’ve seen is people who have perceived themselves as 'have-nots' murdering those they perceive as the 'haves.'"

Failing to specify "modern" history can imply that the earlier shootings don't count, Waxman writes. She adds that another solution would be to avoid superlatives such as deadliest shooting altogether, since "comparing a new tragedy to those in history does it no justice."