If You Want To Lower Gun Crime, End The War On Drugs

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In The Atlantic, Noah Smith details some fascinating numbers about gun crimes. Many anti-gun activists and commentators have cited a study which suggests that gun deaths will surpass traffic deaths by 2015.

That’s troubling, to say the least, but a little misleading. Of that total number only a fraction – about 9,000 or 1/3 of the total – are gun murders of the sort that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, and that fraction is shrinking because as Smith writes, “murder by gun has been falling steadily since the early 1990s.”

What makes up the bulk of that growing number are gun suicides (accidental gun deaths, for what it’s worth, are holding steady at around 500 deaths per year). That’s troubling, but not exactly the sort of “gun crime” that most Americans view as a valid justification for gun control. Those bent on ending their lives have plenty of options. Controlling guns isn’t likely to fix that problem.

But even with gun murders representing a small and shrinking part of the gun deaths, is there a way we can reduce them even faster? Yes, and that way isn’t gun control. It’s ending the “War on Drugs.”

From Smith’s article:

Reliable statistics on the number of drug-related murders in the United States are hard to come by. A 1994 Department of Justice report suggested that between a third and a half of U.S. homicides were drug-related, while a recent Center for Disease Control study found that the rate varied between 5% and 25% (a 2002 Bureau of Justice report splits the difference). Part of this variance is that “drug-related” murders are hard to define. There are murders committed by people on drugs, murders committed by addicts to get money for drugs, turf-war murders by drug suppliers, and murders committed by gangs whose principal source of income is drug sales.

But very few would argue that the illegal drug trade is a significant cause of murders. This is a straightforward result of America’s three-decade-long “drug war.” Legal bans on drug sales lead to a vacuum in legal regulation; instead of going to court, drug suppliers settle their disputes by shooting each other. Meanwhile, interdiction efforts raise the price of drugs by curbing supply, making local drug supply monopolies (i.e., gang turf) a rich prize to be fought over. And stuffing our overcrowded prisons full of harmless, hapless drug addicts forces us to give accelerated parole to hardened killers.

Ending the drug war would involve reducing all of these incentives to murder. Treating addicts in hospitals and rehab centers, instead of sticking them in prisons, would reduce demand for drugs, lowering the price and starving gangs of income while reducing their incentive to wage turf wars.

Of course, there are negatives to ending drugs too. Use could go up should using drugs lose their stigma, and that could have a deleterious impact on our society and economy. But then, I’m not entirely convinced that the “War on Drugs” is really stopping all that many people who want drugs from getting them.

You can buy marijuana, cocaine and meth in just about every single community in America. So what, exactly, are we accomplishing with drug prohibition?

As usual, the prohibition of alcohol offers lessons. The enactment of alcohol prohibition lead to a spike in crime is gangs seeking to serve the newly created black market for alcohol went to war with one another, as well as government prohibition agents. “In a study of over 30 major U.S cities during the prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%,” reports Wikipedia. “Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicide by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6% and police department costs rose by 11.4%.”

In all the discussion and debate about mass shootings that have taken place over the last week, I’ve read one interesting statistic cited over and over again: Instances of mass shootings actually peaked in 1929. That date isn’t random. That was the height of alcohol prohibition, and a year which saw Al Capone’s infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Ending the war on drugs wouldn’t end all gun crime, but it would end a lot of it. And ending the war on drugs would create new problems and headaches for America, but those problems are preferable than the problems created by drug prohibition.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • mickey_moussaoui

    These numbers dont jive with actual stats. Too many articles are real sloppy with numbers. It’s bad enough that the left live by fradulent data

  • Neiman

    Americans, liberal or conservative, just refuse to long resist evil if it is hard, inconvenient or involves attacks by those on the other sides. This mind altering drug matter is no different, we just will not long resist evil and we eventually punish those that will not surrender. We see this with the evil of homosexuality, with the evil of abortion, with the evil of atheism and we see it with the evil scourge of drugs. Mainly, because most people today are products of the Sixties drug revolution and are soft on drug use, mostly non-Christian and love the evil in the world.

    Will legalizing drugs lower gun violence? Horse crap! Evil people are by nature violent, forcing their will on others and that will not end. It is a Trojan Horse, Rob wants to send you, a pretty package of drastically lowering gun violence by legalizing drugs, while hiding the fact that the evil in man still exists and they will still use guns to kill.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Right, so let’s keep the drug cartels in business! That’ll help!

      • Neiman

        First, I will never expect you to stand up for the right thing, the moral thing and say to hell with the consequences, a feeling that you must do what is right no matter waht. That is not in your nature. It is just like my not voting Romney, he would have been much better for America and our economy, but he served a false god and that ruled him out for me, even knowing it might allow the Mahdi Obama to stay in power. It is doing what I think is right and not being responsible for the consequences if others make the wrong choice.

        It is nonsense that it will keep the drug cartels in business, that is a false choice. If, like Singapore, we inflicted maximum pain on drug dealers and were damn severe with illegal drug users, fighting a real war instead of a politically correct non-war on drugs, we could dry up the dealers and users here overnight and that would mean the death of the cartels. If we returned to Judeo-Christian moral values and honored Nature’s God as the Judge of all flesh, we would make a serious impact on drug use, but your eat, drink (get stoned), fornicate and be merry until we become worm food has created the society which craves any escape from the evil they see around them, from failed lives and weak natures.

        • SusanBeehler

          I agree with you

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Its funny to me how many thoroughly religious people seem to think the path tons healthier society means hurt I g everyone who doesn’t live to their standards.

          You’re one of the least moral people I know, Neiman.

          • Neiman

            If one were to try and live up to the standards of my own personal morality, they would indeed be but poor beggars in life and examining the multitude of my failures, would be a pitiful occupation of one’s precious time. Looking beyond myself and my puny frame, I think it is the man that sees in Jesus a standard of perfect divine morality, to which we all should aspire that, will be blessed in this life and eternity. It is to that standard to which I appeal, desiring it for my own life and wishing it for the lives of others. If I am wrong in that, then Jesus is a lie and life is nothing, less than nothing.

            If you judge me inferior in morality to yourself and others, you judge correctly. In the flesh I fail daily and regret each failure bitterly, while in the Spirit wherein is my life, I enjoy before God my being cloaked in the moral perfection of Christ. That is the Christian testimony, not I, but Christ that liveth in me, that is my hope. He gathers the crippled and lame in life to Himself, He came to save the lost, not the self righteous.

            It remains my observation that you hold to no core moral values, nothing for which you would sacrifice your life to defend. Could you for anything say, I care not for the consequences, I take no responsibility for the actions of others but this I will defend unto my death? Is there nothing in life greater than yourself. for which you would rather die than surrender?

          • Chuck

            At least you admit yer massive hypocrisy. I give you that.

          • Neiman

            You do not understand what I said or what Christianity is about at all, you missed the whole point, you just see an opportunity to ridicule and play demonic games.

  • WOOF

    You can’t handle the truth.
    “The Highway Traffic Safety Administration, studies and recomends understanding and prevention of death and injury on our roads and
    highways. It reports fiscal year 2012 funding of $62.4 million overall
    for research and analysis: $35.5 million for vehicle safety and $26.9
    million for highway safety.”

    “in the 1990s, politicians backed by the NRA
    attacked researchers for publishing data on firearm research. For good
    measure, they also went after the Centers for Disease Control and
    Prevention for funding the research. According to the NRA, such science
    is not “legitimate.”
    To make sure federal agencies got the message, Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.)
    sponsored an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the CDC’s
    budget, the exact amount it had spent on firearms research the previous
    year.”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/12/gun_violence_research_nra_and_congress_blocked_gun_control_studies_at_cdc.html

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I’m not sure what pong you’re even trying to make?

      • two_amber_lamps

        I believe that would be the “crack-addled chihuahua” argument he’s using on you.

      • WOOF

        Simple, the firearms industry has prevented gov’t from studying prevention of death, injury, firearms safety and violence.

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          Even if that were true, and I certainly wouldn’t take your word for it given your track record, so what? Just because the government doesn’t do it, it isn’t done?

          There’s plenty of data and analysis on this topic.

          • WOOF
          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            Yes, Woof, your track record. You were going to tell us how gun control could have prevented the assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, and the wisdom of gun control imparted by their blood on Di Fi’s elbows…We’re still waiting.

          • SusanBeehler

            So is this the “essay” you were going to post on your website; it has a common theme. “Drugs are the cause of murders by guns.”

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            No. I was going to elaborate on why Wayne LaPierre’s idea of putting armed police in every school is a bad one. Maybe you jump to too many conclusions, Susan.

          • Reynard Vulpes

            Oh do show us how armed guards are a bad thing. Everywhere the “armed guards,” we call police responded the perps either self destroyed or were stopped.

            In fact here and there in mass shooting attempt armed citizens effected the end of a shooter’s spree.

            My favorite was Pearl MS, where a middle school vice principal run to his private vehicle and retrieved his own .45, and stopped two shooters. Later it was discovered they ahd intended, when they were done at his school, to go on to the nearby highschool and do some more killing.

            So much for good guys with guns NOT being effective deterrent to bad guys with guns.

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            You jump to nearly as many conclusions as the dear deluded Susan. I never said that armed guards are a “bad thing”. I said his “idea of putting armed police in every school is a bad one”.

            Now holster your outrage and indignation and try to imagine a realistic and responsible way to protect our children.

            Do you have any idea of exactly how many elementary schools, secondary schools, high schools and preschools there are in this country? Take a guess. Google it if you like. It’s a lot. I mean A LOT! Multiply that number by the number of armed policemen we would need to protect the children against all risk, which would be higher on larger campuses. Now double that number if they have extra curricular activities.

            Take that number and multiply it by the salaries needed to attract skilled and competent personnel. Now double that because of benefits.

            Now ask yourself: Is there sufficient risk at EVERY school in the nation to warrant that response? Are there a sufficient number of qualified individuals willing to take those positions?

            Consider instead, a scenario where the school district encourages and perhaps subsidizes (but certainly doesn’t oppose) teachers with CCWs. Willing teachers could receive training and bring their personal weapons (concealed) to school, or the schools could provide the weapons.

            Part of the theory of deterrence is not knowing your opponent’s strength. Armed guards can be accounted for. If students and slackers and evil doers do not know which of their teachers or how many may be carrying, even an unarmed teacher may serve as deterrence in that situation.

            Putting armed police in every school is a bad idea because it is impractical, unrealistic and unaffordable. Arming or not disarming teachers, on the rare occasion that they are needed, is not.

          • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

            The black market created by the prohibition of drugs causes a lot of gun crime, yes.

            And I’m right, as anyone who has studied the realities of the war on drugs, not to mention the history of alcohol prohibition, knows.

          • SusanBeehler

            I agree. Just as you feel a gun is needed to be carried by teacher, I believe making drugs legal would not be good for society. You have your opinion and I have mine. The black market and the flea/gun market contribute to problems with gun violence too. Lets crack down on the black market and the flea/gun markets

          • Reynard Vulpes

            It’s already illegal to sell stolen guns, the Black Market. And “gun markets,” require background checks for retail sales by FFL gun sellers. Private sales at gun shows, which I presume you meant, are tiny numbers, and ALL gunshow sales amount to less than 1.5% of guns involved in crime. Thus some smaller percentage of the total guns are private background free sales.

            Rather a waste of time to “crack down.”

            They had no effect on production of liquor during Prohibition, other than to drive up the illicit trade and production. It would be the same with guns. It IS the same with guns in fact.

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Say, they were murdered by a gun enthusiast too, right Poof?

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            So, Woofie runs like a scalded dog from a discussion where he was clearly full of cr*p, and look who shows up to give him cover by trying to change the subject! Nice try, Dorkitized!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Poof, you run like a kitten that’s seen anything besides it’s own shadow. Nobody loves their own company and the absence of an opponent as much as you do.

            Weren’t George Moscone and Harvey Milk murdered by a gun enthusiast, Poof?

            Now don’t be frightened.

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            The assassinations took place while you were still crapping your nappies, Hannitized (though that could describe any time up to and including this last week!) I do not recall anyone characterizing the assailant as a “gun enthusiast. That wasn’t the point, which is apparently your specialty, FullOfCrapitized. Dan White was an honorably discharged Viet Nam war vet. Are you going to try to smear yet another Viet Nam war vet with your baseless speculation and lies, Tiny Sociopath?

            Please, if you want to start a thread of your own, grow a pair of balls and try to find so much as a single original thought, (You may have to borrow one from someone else) and start your own reader’s blog. The point of the question that Woofie is running from like a scalded dog, and you are running to, as a dog returns to its vomit, to try to change the subject, is whether or not “gun control” as it is currently being proposed would have prevented the assassinations of Milk and Moscone, or as Woofie so idiotically put it, given Di Fi singular knowledge of gun control merely by her presence at the scene, so that “No one knows more about gun violence and gun control.”

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            Poofy, I know it runs counter to the argument you thought you were making, but White was a gun enthusiast. He spent the majority of his life with a gun at his side, both in the military and after, as a security guard and policeman.

            That says quite a bit about those who are comfortable with their guns, and having easy access to them, eh Poofy?

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            “White was a gun enthusiast”

            Want to cite your source young moron, or are you simply relying on your famous Mind Read Fail? And OffTopBozoitized, even if he was a “gun enthusiast”, how would the currently proposed gun control have prevented the assassination?

            Merry Christmas, you insufferable cretin! Since the only fulfillment you seem to have in life is seeking my attention and the abuse you justifiably receive here, may you receive less of the former and more of the latter in the coming year!

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            You don’t know much about the gun laws in SF today, do you, Poofy? Had you known that, and the difference between the gun laws then, you could have answered your own question, provided you weren’t proofoundly stupid.

            By the way, Merry Christmas, you old, envious SOB.

          • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

            First of all, let me say that I’m sorry you had to spend Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day) arguing with someone you don’t like, on a conservative North Dakota blog you don’t agree with. Funny, because you, according to you, are wealthy and a “mover and shaker” in Democrat politics on the island, and here President Obama was in town on vacation and again, according to you, you used to date his sister’s daughter’s cousin’s hair dresser’s gardener’s pool boy, so why aren’t you hanging out with the beautiful people on Christmas Eve?

            Oh, yeah. You had to obfuscate a discussion on a blog in North Dakota to try to hide the fact you have no source for your allegation that Dan White was a “gun enthusiast”. Although he was in the military and a guard and a policeman, he was also a fireman. Did that make him a fire ax enthusiast, because he was comfortable with firefighters’ gear? He was a county supervisor. Did that make him a…bureaucracy enthusiast? Paperwork enthusiast?? A government enthusiast??? What???? I take it you do not cite your source simply because you never had one? Figures.

            I own more than one shovel. I am comfortable with my shovels. In my life, I have worked one or more jobs where I used a shovel. In fact, I have had occasion to use one more recently than any of my firearms. Does that make me a “shovel enthusiast” somewhere in the sponge inside the vast, empty canyons of your head, Tiny Snickerdoodle?

            I am probably quite a bit more familiar than you are with both the SF gun laws then and now. Still, it is irrelevant (much like you) to the question as to whether or not Dan White was a gun “enthusiast”. If you haven’t a source (or a clue what the word means) just say so and don’t embarrass yourself any further.

            After all, I’m sure you need to pick out something to wear for the President’s New Year’s Eve party. He did ask you, didn’t he, Mr. Mover and Shakeritized? Thought so….

            You may now return to your irrelevance.

          • guewst

            “Nobody loves their own company and the absence of an opponent as much as you do”

            Says willie bonilla, the narcissistic tax cheat who post’s his own pictures, brags about the filthy, STD infected men and women he sleeps with and touts the fact that he’s on meds for chlamydia.

            Now, tell us little pet troll, who are you planning to kill with your semi automatic weapons?

          • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

            When you are a bitter loser, what else can you do except lie about people?

          • guest

            Your own words, and public records prove that I tell the truth.

          • Reynard Vulpes

            Anecdotes, unless you can collect a statistically viable number for analysis, are just stories.

            And please define a gun “enthusiast,” if you don’t mind. The owner of a single gun can be an enthusiast. I know a few Olympic shooters that only have one principle gun. They are quite enthusiastic about it. Just like a know a few violin enthusiasts.

            That doesn’t make all violin owners bad boys with strings. Now does it?

          • Woofs_Mommy

            Your track record of stupidity is impeccable. Congratulations and Merry Christmas!

          • Reynard Vulpes

            Absolutely. The problem is the facts as found in the three sources I cited, do NOT support the agenda of the gun prohibitionists.

            In fact is defeats their claims. The death rates from guns continues to drop, most significantly in murder, even justifiable homicides are down, and it shows that suicides, while level over the years as to rates, is mean independent. Take away guns and the suicide rate doesn’t change. Canada tried that. Got a spate of jumpers that SPLAT brought the rate right back up to pre handgun ban levels.

        • Reynard Vulpes

          It’s done no such thing. We already HAVE all that data, in the FBI, DOJ, and CDC archives. And we continue to collect it each year, and no “industry,” has tried to stop any of those from collection and analysis of that data.

          Why lie?

    • Reynard Vulpes

      The reasoning was sound. Would YOU accept the conclusions and findings of a study that set out to promote a single viewpoint, such as “guns are bad,” or would you be more inclined to accept one that studied good versus bad?

      The study was slanted. And even at that, they came out with the finding that no correlation could be established between the increase or decrease of gun crime related to more or less prohibitory gun laws.

      In other words, as usual, they wasted our tax dollars.

      I’m not a republican, and in fact believe that party has been totally preempted by evil forces out to destroy this country and complete the taking over by a small band of plutocrats.

      But they were absolutely right in their demand .. the point hidden by the gun prohibitionists … .that NO STUDIES BE DONE THAT HAVE THE GOAL OF SUPPORTING GUN CRIME IS GUN OWNERSHIP DRIVEN.

      That’s logical and right. Research is useless when it sets out with a predetermined single theory and ONLY looks for proof of that, and not evidence that would refute it.

  • dlao

    Ya, legalize it, that will cure the problem. I can’t wait for the day I take my family out for a nice meal and on one side of me people snorting coke off their table and on the other side people shooting up heroin. That should make for a nice family meal.

    • Bat One

      What you obviously don’t understand is that only those on the Left, with politically correct credentials, are allowed to take offense at the behavior of others. If you are an ordinary American citizen you are not allowed to be offended by some smelly liberal protester taking a symbolic dump on the American flag or a nearby police car. Freedom of speech. And if someone wants to do drugs at the restaurant table next to your family you’d be labeled a cretinous neanderthal for objecting to him exercising his individual rights. On the other hand, if you and your family decide to have a brief, silent prayer before you eat, well then, you are obviously publicly imposing your unscientific religious views on him, and would likely be subject to arrest if he had his way.

      • Chuck

        Could you be more hyperbolic? You need to step it up. This is only half as dumb as nieman.

        • Bat One

          Apparently you’re not much on sarcasm, are you, Chuck? How about a deal? You don’t roil the mush between your ears trying to understand stuff that’s beyond your comprehension, and I’ll try my damnedest not to be indignant that you are no longer reading what I write. Fair enough?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I hardly think that would be the outcome.

  • Bat One

    For all the gun banners out there;;;

    • SusanBeehler

      You think you are “pertinent, rational, and factually correct”? Yes let’s
      just let everything be legal, we can run people over because it is no longer
      illegal to drive drunk, we can have sex with whatever and whereever, we can
      beat our spouses with no consequences, we can do all the meth and whatever while our children wait to be fed than if they cry we can beat them because child abuse could be legalized too? Bat One REALLY???? And you say I am WRONG?

      • Bat One

        Strawman arguments, particularly the amusingly silly ones you’ve offered, really aren’t worthy of any serious attention. You’re starting to sound really, really desperate and more than a little unhinged. Why not give it a rest, get a good night’s sleep, and then hitch up your big-girl panties and try again tomorrow. Hmmm?

        • Guest

          That is your argument though, that just because making it illegal won’t totally eliminate the occurrence that it therefore shouldn’t be attempted. The same can be said for everything Susan said as well. Don’t blame logic and reasoning for the many flaws in your reasoning.

          • Bat One

            No! That is NOT my argument at all. Fact is, I haven’t argued one way or another about the possible legalization of drugs. And my argument against Susan’s zeal for banning firearms she knows nothing about has, from the very beginning, been based on the Second Amendment and the Heller and McDonald decisions.

            Meanwhile, this,

            Don’t blame logic and reasoning for the many flaws in your reasoning.

            may well be the single most idiotic sentence posted here this year.

      • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

        Reductio ad absurdum.

        Nobody wants to legalize murder. We’re talking about legalizing certain inebriants the prohibition of which is causing a lot of crime while not actually prohibiting much of anything.

        • Guest

          It’s so funny to see Rob object to arguments as reductio ad absurdum while he simultaneously argues that if we ban guns we should ban cars. Thanks for again displaying your cognitive dissonance, hack!

  • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

    An interesting premise. If Gangbanger A doesn’t shoot Gangbanger B over illegal drug traffic, then there is one fewer “gun death”. But how would that work in the real world??

    Congress legalizes meth, let’s say. R J Reynolds opens a Meth-R-Us shop on 4th and Main. The government receives tax revenues from sales and all is hunky spunky. No need to shoot anybody over the meth trade!

    Except, what about Gangbanger A and Gangbanger B? Are these guys who are used to a fast buck on the street going to put on a tie and use their experience to clerk at Meth-R-Us? Become greeters at Wal-Mart? Find a job where they have to punch a clock or actually work for a living? Or are they going to find some other illegal activity: a drug we didn’t legalize, or legalize in sufficient quantities to satisfy the needs of junkies, or prostitution or gambling or cock fighting or human trafficking. Sooner or later, might a territory dispute over the new illegal activity cause Gangbanger A to shoot Gangbanger B?

    Or if Gangbanger A doesn’t shoot Gangbanger B, but there’s no more illegal drug trade to earn a fast buck, maybe Gangbanger B goes into the armed robbery business. Suppose there are casualties among his victims? Hey! At least Gangbanger A doesn’t shoot Gangbanger B!

    • SusanBeehler

      Except you have left out the fact, the longer the person uses method the crazier they get. Do you even understand what meth does to the mind? It can make violent people even more violent, feel no pain and they think they can do anything. This is your great IDEA????? This is a joke, right?

      • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

        Sarcasm eludes you. My point was that decriminalizing anything will not necessarily change the criminals. Seriously…Meth-R-Us? You couldn’t pick up on that? I was exploring the premise that legalizing drugs would decrease gun violence, by looking at the character of those who deal in them. Ever hear of a hypothetical?

        Step away from the blog and get a little fresh air (and perspective) and call me in the morning.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      You might want to look at the violent crime rates in America before, during and after alcohol prohibition. They are revealing numbers.

      • http://proof-proofpositive.blogspot.com/ Proof

        There was violence during prohibition, but then, organized crime didn’t turn en masse to a life of day laborers and Sunday School teachers when alcohol became legal again.

        This was also an era where the death of seven people at one time was considered a “massacre”. I believe the culture has devolved somewhat since then.

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