The United States of America is not the first destination that comes to mind when you think of safety issues affecting tourists.
Like much of the Western World, it has been historically considered a safe destination, while countries like Mexico and their Latin American partners have been under scrutiny for years over isolated incidents that rarely ever involve visitors.
Interestingly, a new travel advisory update issued by Canada, America’s closest neighbor and its sister nation, seems to be bringing that unchallenged status into question, as urban safety across the States becomes more compromised:
Canada Urges Citizens To Beware Of Mass Shootings
As customary, Canada has updated its Travel Advisory listings, which the Government maintains in order to track developments in foreign countries that may be relevant to Canadians flying abroad.
This time, however, an additional note on the United States has drawn our attention, other than the usual warnings against travel to certain Eastern European countries in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War, and gang activity across the Caribbean region:
In the update, Canada explicitly mentions random shootings in the States, due to a ‘high’ rate of firearm possession that is unusual among countries. As Ottawa notes, ‘it’s legal in many states for US citizens to openly carry firearms in public‘.
America’s controversial history of gun violence is well-documented, with numerous reports of school shootings dating back to the 18th-century, and numerous other attacks carried out by armed citizens in public spaces where gun laws are less rigid.
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According to the Canadian Government, while tourists are ‘rarely involved’, there is still a risk they could find themselves ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
This means they should remain vigilant, and familiarize themselves on how to remain safe in these situations.
Does The US Have A Gun Problem?
In 2023 alone, there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the States, as confirmed by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. These figures include both shootings taking place out in the open and inside homes, and incidents in which ‘four or more’ people are injured, or fatally injured.
Since 2020, there have been over 600 mass shootings on U.S. soil.
Looking at it this way, it’s easy to see why foreign governments, particularly Canada, which shares a long border with the United States, would raise a red flag.
The warning isn’t unwarranted, also: as graphs depicted by the BBC show, gun-related deaths in the States are disproportionately high compared to its Western counterparts.
In England and Wales, they make up for about 4% of all homicides. In Australia, 11%. Canada’s significantly higher gun violence accounts for 40% of deaths, but the States’ staggering 80.5% clearly makes it the odd one out.
Gun ownership in the US is a contentious topic, and one that’s been politicized for years, but in assessing these data, it’s hard to overlook the fact that gun violence seems to be more common in the North American country, as opposed to everywhere else.
Is The US Unsafe To Visit?
This doesn’t mean the US is a dangerous destination.
In fact, Canada still considers it a low-risk country, where ‘normal security precautions‘ must be taken.
Yes, mass shootings do occur and it is likely they will continue being a safety issue in the long-term, but they are not a tourist’s main concern visiting the States, as they tend to be sporadic events, albeit increasingly more common.
Instead, Canadian visitors are urged to beware of crime in large urban centers, particularly in cities like St. Louis, named the most dangerous in America, where petty crime is rampant and violence perpetrated by gangs is widespread.
With that being said, the rates of violent crime affecting tourists remains relatively low across the States, despite higher incidences in certain cities, such as San Francisco, the latest tourist destination hit by a crime wave.
When visiting, other than reading the Active Shooter Event Quick Reference Guide, Canadians must be ‘mindful of their surroundings’ and verify crime statistics before visiting select neighborhoods.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com