B.C. parents of Las Vegas shooting survivor warn against U.S. travel after weekend attacks

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Canadians are voicing concerns about travelling to the U.S. in the wake of two back-to-back mass shootings this weekend that killed a combined 31 people.

One B.C. family knows how dangerous a mass shooting can be: their son survived the deadliest one in U.S. history.

Sheldon Mack was one of the over 800 people wounded when a lone gunman opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017. The shooting killed 59 others.

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Mack has since recovered from the injuries to his arm and internal organs, but his parents in Victoria say the continued news of similar tragedies has made it difficult to move on.

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“When these events keep happening, these massacres, it takes you back and it’s hard to heal,” Patty Mack said, adding the prospect of heading south of the border has begun to give her anxiety.

“If we can’t feel safe, and our children are going there, our families, are we willing to risk it?” she asked.

READ MORE: Former B.C. news anchor Hudson Mack’s son wounded in Las Vegas shooting

Tensions over safety and gun control in the U.S. were already renewed recently after three people were killed at a garlic festival in Gilroy, Calif. on July 28.

Patty and Hudson said their elder son’s girlfriend narrowly missed becoming a potential victim in that shooting when she decided to attend the day before instead.

Then on Saturday, 20 people were killed in El Paso, Tex., when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded Walmart, injuring more than 20 others. Two more victims later succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

Thirteen hours later, nine people were killed in less than a minute and 27 others wounded in downtown Dayton, Ohio, before the gunman was shot dead by police.

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Mack’s father Hudson Mack, a former CHEK News anchor, says it’s clear what the cause of those massacres is.

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“The common denominator in the U.S. is the easy access to guns,” he said. “I don’t think Canadians feel safe in the States anymore.”

Travel expert Claire Newell said attacks abroad typically create a fear among travellers, but that it eventually dissolves after the dust settles and calm returns to that area.

The difference with the U.S., though, is that the attacks just keep coming.

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“The sad part about this is that people can barely keep track,” Newell said. “People have been afraid of terrorist attacks for years, and I think we’re almost getting numb to it.

“It’s now a matter of assessing what your personal level of tolerance is to be able to actually travel in these kind of situations, because these attacks happen in places all around the world in places we love to travel.”

The Macks are already questioning whether to go ahead with a planned trip to Seattle to see the Rolling Stones. (“We’ll be scanning the exits” if they do go, Hudson said.)

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But Patty says maybe a wave of cancelled travel plans could send the U.S. a message.

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“I don’t think terrorism should change what you do completely, but I don’t know if maybe as Canadians or others around the world we should say with our money that we don’t support travel to the States,” Patty said.

Newell says that message could be heard loud and clear by lawmakers, but questions whether it could happen on a wide enough scale.

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“I think that would be a tough thing for less travellers to go,” she said. “Tourism is a huge part of the economy in the U.S. The reality, though, is people still want to go there, so it may not happen how we’d maybe like.”

However it happens, Hudson Mack is hopeful enough people within the U.S. and abroad can convince the country to change its gun laws, saying it’s the only solution to curb the violence.

“It’s so maddening that it just keeps happening, and Americans don’t understand they have the power to change this if they just have the courage to do so,” he said.

— With files from Kylie Stanton

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