Mass shootings in the U.S. are once again on the rise — and countries around the world are taking notice.
At least seven nations have issued advisories to their citizens who intend on traveling to the U.S., citing serious safety concerns in recent years. New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Venezuela and Uruguay have each urged precaution for travelers when visiting the U.S., due in large part to gun violence.
In the first weekend of May, eight people were shot and killed at a busy Dallas-area mall after a 33-year-old gunman opened fire, wounding at least seven others before he was fatally shot by police. The previous weekend in Oklahoma, a convicted sex offender shot and killed his wife, her three children and two of their friends before he killed himself, according to police. And just two days prior to that, a man shot and killed five neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, after the family asked him to stop firing rounds in the air as a baby tried to sleep. The suspected shooter was arrested after a manhunt that lasted several days.
A crime problem or a gun problem?
There have been more than 200 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the shooter. Though mass shooting numbers fell slightly in 2022, since 2018 mass shootings have gone up by nearly 100 each year. In fact, in each of the last three years, there have been more than 600 mass shootings in the U.S., or about two each day.
Yet despite these numbers, the U.S. remains one of the safer countries in the world. Not only has violent crime sharply declined since the mid-1990s, but scholars say that the U.S. doesn’t have much more crime than many other countries. It does, however, have more guns. The U.S. is the only nation in the world where guns outnumber people, at a rate of 120 guns to 100 people, according to the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey.
“Rates of common property crimes in the United States are comparable to those reported in many other Western industrial nations, but rates of lethal violence in the United States are much higher,” authors and UC Berkeley scholars Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins wrote in their 1999 book, “Crime Is Not the Problem.”
Still, the threat of gun violence in conjunction with the perceived lack of security within the U.S. is increasingly seen as a safety concern by both American citizens and would-be tourists. Though the chances of a tourist in the U.S. becoming a victim of gun violence remain low, experts say “perception is reality.”
‘A cause for concern’
“If people perceive they are not safe in the U.S. they will not visit,” Simon Hudson, a professor of tourism at the University of South Carolina, told Yahoo News. The 2022 Global Peace Index, which measures the peacefulness of countries and is made up of 23 quantitative and qualitative indicators, ranks the U.S. 129th out of 163 countries, just above Brazil.
Given this ranking, Hudson added, “it is a cause for concern for any country seeking to attract people to live, work and play.”
Pew Research Center found that the gun death rate in the U.S. in 2021 was 14.6 per 100,000 people — a figure much higher than in the majority of developed nations, according to a 2018 study of 195 countries and territories by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
By comparison, gun death rates in countries like Canada (2.1 per 100,000) and Australia (1.0), as well as European nations such as France (2.7) and Spain (0.6), were far lower.
But the U.S. rate is still much lower than in many Latin American countries, many of which frequently find themselves embroiled in long-lasting civic unrest, like El Salvador (39.2 per 100,000 people), Venezuela (38.7), Guatemala (32.3) and Colombia (25.9), the 2018 study found.
“Gun crime is indeed a concern in our country,” Sandy Chen, a professor in Ohio University’s hospitality and tourism program, told Yahoo News in an email. “These advisories simply point out the negative impact of the increased violence and gun crime in parts of America on U.S. tourism.”
Here is how the countries are communicating concerns to their citizens.
New Zealand’s travel advisory for the U.S. is a level 2 of 4, meaning citizens are advised to exercise increased caution.
“The United States remains a target of terrorist interest, both from international terror groups and from domestic-based extremists,” a portion of the advisory on the country’s travel site reads.
Canada, the U.S.’s northern neighbor, cautions its citizens to take normal security precautions, which is the least of its four advisories.
“The rate of firearm possession in the U.S. is high,” a portion of the Canadian advisory reads. “Incidents of mass shootings occur, resulting most often in casualties. Although tourists are rarely involved, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Australia’s advisory for the U.S. also cautions its citizens to “exercise normal safety precautions,” which is the least of its four advisories, but notes gun crime as the biggest issue.
“Violent crime is more common than in Australia. Gun crime is also prevalent,” the government says. “If you live in the US, learn and practice active shooter drills.”
The U.K. does not have a warning level system, but instead offers travel advice for those looking to visit the United States.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in the USA,” the government says, adding, “Violent crime, including gun crime, rarely involves tourists, but you should take care when traveling in unfamiliar areas.”
France describes the U.S. as “among the safest countries” but warns against both vehicle and physical threats in large cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles.
“An increase in thefts of vehicles in motion with violence and threats, sometimes using a weapon (‘car-jackings’), has been observed in most major American cities,” a portion of the advisory reads.
Venezuela and Uruguay
South American countries Venezuela and Uruguay have issued warnings for the U.S. since 2019. Venezuela’s government has urged caution since August 2019 because of a “proliferation of acts of violence and indiscriminate hate crimes.”
Similarly, Uruguay’s government urged caution “in the face of growing indiscriminate violence, mostly due to hate crimes, including racism and discrimination.”
Both warnings came shortly after two tragic shootings in less than 24 hours. The first was a shooting at a crowded El Paso, Texas, department store where 22 people were killed, and the other was where a gunman killed nine people in less than a minute on a crowded street in Dayton, Ohio.
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Jack Forbes/Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images (3)