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.
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.”