Gun Mad: Why tourists are advised to avoid the US

Omar Adan

Global Courant

The year 2023 is on track to be the worst in recent history for mass shootings in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archives database. Some commentators wonder if security fears gun violence and mass shootings could keep international fans away from the 2026 FIFA World Cup in Los Angeles.

No other developed nation has that mass shootings on the same scale or frequency as the US. Estimates suggest that Americans consume 393 million of the 857 million civilian weapons available, about 46% of the world’s civilian gun ownership.

a report from 2013 according to the European Commission, only 5% of EU citizens owned a gun, compared to about 32% of Americans in 2020. And the US figure is expected to be increased following recent shootings.

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Every time another mass shooting happens, foreign politicians and media respond of incomprehension that US gun laws differ so much from those of most other Western countries. Thirteen US states openly allow carrying a gun without a licenseand 25 (soon to be 26) do not need a permit to carry a concealed weapon in public.

Several countries have now issued US travel warnings to their citizens regarding gun violence.

Uruguay has suggested that its citizens avoid certain cities, including Detroit and Baltimore. Germany warns of the possibility of massacres and that purchases of arms and ammunition have increased significantly since the Covid-19 crisis.

Canada now advises its citizens to familiarize themselves with how to respond to an active shooter before visiting and warns of mass shootings. Australia‘s official travel advisory warns that “gun crime is widespread.”

Even Venezuelaranked as one of the world’s most dangerous countriesissued its highest advisory against travel to the US after mass shootings, as of 2019.

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China has too warned its citizens that they were traveling to a country with “regular shootings”. The New York Times reported that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an advisory urging citizens to “be careful and prepare for the possibility that gun crimes may occur in workplaces, schools, homes and tourist locations.”

In 2022 research by data analysis group Morning consultation found that a whopping 93% of Chinese nationals planning to visit the US were so concerned about violent crime that they might not travel.

Tourism and violence

Journalist Rosie Spinks has questioned how America has managed to remain a “safe” country to visit when similar incidents taking place elsewhere would immediately cause countries to be closed off to international visitors.

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In June 2015, a mass shooting occurred in the Tunisian resort of Port El Kantaoui, killing 39 people, mostly tourists. The massacre had dramatic consequences for the tourism industry in Tunisia and thousands lost their jobs.

For three years the UK advised against any travel to the country, with much of the world following similar policies. Research found that even in other Muslim countries unrelated to the attack, their tourism industry was negatively affected.

That’s not to say governments were wrong in canceling holidays to Tunisia. Tourist safety should always be the top priority.

But in the year of the shooting in Tunisia, there were 372 mass shootings in the U.S. Meanwhile, the country welcomed one record number of foreign visitors. The difference here may be that Tunisian shootings targeted tourists.

Perhaps a destination’s ability to recover from a tragedy is often due not to the reality on the ground, but to our own perceptions of security. And these perceptions often stem from prejudice, media bias, and government advice favoring certain destinations.

How do nations protect tourists?

Safety and security are essential to the tourism industry. More than any other economic activity, the success or failure of a tourist destination depends on being able to provide a safe environment for visitors.

Some places choose to cocoon their tourists enclave resorts, where they are protected in specific zones. The Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, for example surrounded through a 22-mile-long, six-foot-high wall, to protect its tourists after several violent incidents that rocked Egypt’s tourism industry.

Those wishing to enter the resort by road must now go through gates equipped with cameras and scanners, as planes land directly in the walled interior.

While these measures may seem unrealistic for the US, some areas that rely heavily on tourism have already put in place controls to protect their visitors. Loaded guns were once banned in all US national parks and wildlife refuges until Barack Obama became controversial overthrown the 20-year-old law during his first month in office.

Walt Disney World has a strict no-gun rule at its theme park, yet reported a sharp increase in people trying to get in with concealed weapons in 2021.

Gun violence in the US does not seem to go away, but global awareness and strict supervision of US gun laws and violence seems to be on the rise.

Tourism is big business in the US: In 2019, international visitors injected a dizzying US$233.5 billionbillion in the US economy. If the US hopes to maintain a positive tourism image and continue to attract visitors, it may soon need to rethink what gun safety looks like to the outside world.

Ross Bennett Cook is a guest lecturer, School of Architecture + Cities, University of Westminster

This article has been republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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