In a travel advisory released Wednesday, the American chapter of the organization explained: “The Amnesty International travel advisory for the country of the United States of America calls on people worldwide to exercise caution and have an emergency contingency plan when traveling throughout the USA. This Travel Advisory is being issued in light of ongoing high levels of gun violence in the country.”
Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for the End Gun Violence Campaign at Amnesty International’s U.S. chapter, told Global News the advisory followed a similar format as the U.S. Department of State uses for its travel alerts on other countries.
“We felt with the gun violence crisis that is taking place in the U.S., that we would issue the same type of warning for individuals coming to the U.S.,” Coverson said.
He explained that the warning is not just a political statement or part of a campaign.
“We want (people) to act upon it because our ultimate goal is to save human life, as a human rights organization. So it’s not a political ploy or some spoof.”
The advisory says those who travel to the U.S. should be “extra vigilant at all times,” avoid places with larger gatherings — such as cultural events, places of worship, schools and malls — and exercise caution at places like bars, nightclubs and casinos.
Coverson explained these places were highlighted because that is where recent mass shootings have happened. He pointed to the mass shooting at the Garlic Festival in Gilory, Calif., the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and numerous school shootings as examples.
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He said Amnesty did not analyze statistics or historical trends on where mass shootings are most likely to occur.
While the advisory applies to people across the world, it said that some people, depending on their race, gender identity, sexual orientation and ethnic background, may be at higher risk of being targeted by gun violence.
Coverson explained that is also due to recent events, namely last weekend’s mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Police said a manifesto of shooting suspect Patrick Crusius included racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic sentiments.
Hate crimes in the U.S., in general, have also been rising, Coverson noted.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were 16,149 hate crime cases reported by law enforcement in 2017. That was an increase of six percentage points from the previous year.
And it’s not just hate crimes. Other statistics on U.S. crime also point to concerning trends.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 8,935 gun-related deaths in the U.S. so far in 2019. There have also been 255 mass shootings, meaning at least four people were shot or killed in those incidents.
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Overall in the world, the U.S. has the 28th highest rate of gun-related deaths, according to research compiled by the University of Washington. The U.S. had 4.43 deaths related to gun violence per 100,000 people in 2017. That is notably higher than other western, developed countries, NPR reported. For example, the rate is 29 times higher than that of Denmark.
The OECD Better Life Index, marks U.S.’s homicide rate overall as 5.5 per 100,000, which it notes is higher than the 3.7 average among OECD countries.
However, the U.S. still ranks relatively well on index when it comes to safety, receiving a 7.5 rating. The index notes that 74 per cent of people in the U.S. say they feel safe walking alone at night.
Beyond Amnesty International’s advisory, some countries have issued warnings as well.
China’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement warning of the possibility of mass shootings.
Several other countries have issued similar warnings about mass shootings in the U.S. following previous incidents, according to CNN.
The Canadian government has not issued any travel warning in light of recent gun violence south of the border. In an email to Global News, Global Affairs explained that Canadians should monitor its website for any updates.
The U.S. travel information page on the Canadian government’s website does note the risk of mass shootings.
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“Incidents of mass shooting occur, but account for a small percentage of homicide deaths in the country,” it reads. “The likelihood of a tourist being a victim of such an incident is low.”
Global Affairs added in its email that Canadians travelling to the U.S. who experience emergency situations, such as a mass shooting, should contact the embassy of Canada in Washington at the number 1-844-880-6519, or the closest consulate office.
Canadians experiencing an emergency can also call the government’s 24/7 emergency watch and response centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.