Article by Mark Lowe

In the global broadcaster’s Travel section of their website, CNN published an article earlier today that raises an important question: What travel warnings do other nations give their citizens about US violence?(Link to the article HERE).

Without any doubt the article has been prompted by the latest mass shooting: last Monday at least seven people were killed in two shootings in the San Francisco Bay area.

There were but the latest in a year that has already been characterised by 39 mass shootings in only three weeks.

It is well known that the United States of America is awash with legally and illegally detained arms, however, the figures are astounding: according to an estimate by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey, there are about 393 million privately owned firearms in the US.

While the exact number of firearms owned by civilians is extremely difficult to calculate due to a variety of factors including unregistered weapons and the illegal trade in firearms, the Small Arms Survey’s estimates means that there are 120 guns for every 100 American citizens.

The sobering truth is that no other nation has more civilian firearms than citizens.

Two statistics put the reality of gun ownership and use into context: the first is that according to a Gallup survey conducted in October 2022, almost 45% of US adults stated that they lived in a household with a gun, the second is that according to the december 2022 edition of Pediatrics – the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among people younger than 24 in the United States.

Mass shootings

Exactly what defines a mass shooting depends on whom you ask, for example the Federal Bureau of Investigation considers a “mass killing” as “three or more killings in a single incident.”

Others define a mass shooting as one in which more than four people are killed or injured, in any case the simple fact is that, according to the Gun Violence Archive, mass shootings in the United States are increasing.

While mass shootings attract worldwide attention, the same cannot be said for incidents in which firearms are used during robberies or other criminal acts. Unfortunately, as per mass shootings, these incidents are also on the rise.

Advice for visitors

While statistics indicate that international travellers are highly unlikely to be involved in a mass shooting, the same cannot be said for other scenarios such as opportune crimes – a mugging or a street robbery, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While both cases are difficult to predict, there are ways to lower the visitor’s exposure to gun crime. Avoiding dimly lit or empty streets and remaining in central areas and avoiding those parts of a town or city that have higher crime rates are the two most obvious.

Less obvious considerations are, for example, avoiding visits to local grocery stores in the evening when the likelihood of an armed robbery is higher.

Situational awareness is fundamental, travellers must be aware of their surroundings and avoid areas that they should not find themselves in. When in a shopping mall, restaurant or bar visitors should make themselves familiar with potential escape routes and hiding places.

These are a few considerations that serve the purpose of illustrating considerations that should be integrated into an organisation’s Travel Risk Management training programmes.

Government advice

CNN Travel’s “What travel warnings do other nations give their citizens about US violence?” article focused on different governments’ advice to their citizens intending to travel to the United States.

As the analysis illustrates, the advice is varied but the risk of gun related crime has been highlighted on all of the websites examined by CNN Travel.

Pyramid Temi Group strongly advises organisations to brief their personnel in detail as to the risk of violent crime in general but including a special focus on gun crimes.

Travellers should be made aware of the risk and the correct procedures to mitigate against the danger. Advice should also be given in regards as to the most correct actions to be taken in a number of situations that range from being threatened with a gun during a robbery to being involved in a mass shooting.

Organisations should also have robust emergency plans to deal with a situation in which an employee or representative has been involved in any form of violent crime.

If you would like to know more about how Pyramid Temi Group can support your organisation, contact us and our experts will be glad to assist.