Amnesty issues travel warning for US over ‘rampant gun violence’

Rights groups cautions visitors to the US, saying Washington is ‘unwilling to ensure protection against gun violence’.

El Paso shooting
The warning came after mass shootings killed 31 people in Ohio and Texas [Andres Leighton/ AP]

A prominent human rights group has issued a travel warning for the United States following two mass shootings that killed 31 people in the states of Ohio and Texas.

Travellers to the US should be “extra vigilant at all times and be wary of the ubiquity of firearms among the population,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Thursday.

“Avoid places where large numbers of people gather, especially cultural events, places of worship, schools and shopping malls,” said the group, which advocates for tighter gun control measures in the US. 

It added: “Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, night clubs and casinos.”

Venezuela and Uruguay also issued travel warnings for the US earlier this week over the deadly gun assaults. 

Amnesty said it’s travel advisory “aims to hold up a mirror to the US” using the US Department of State’s model of providing timely travel advice for US citizens visiting other countries. 

The warning condemning “rampant gun violence” came after back-to-back shootings over the weekend. In the first assault on Saturday, a gunman opened fire on shoppers in a Walmart store in the city of El Paso, on the US border with Mexico, killing 22 people.

Just 13 hours later, in Dayton, Ohio, a gunman sprayed a local bar with bullets, killing nine people. The police killed the shooter at the scene. Dozens were wounded in both attacks. 

Investigators believe the El Paso shooting was a racially motivated crime, while the FBI said the Dayton gunman had explored violent ideologies. 

Memorial Walmart
NRA President Wayne LaPierre spoke with Trump on Tuesday to warn the president against supporting a new law requiring wider background checks [File: Callaghan O’Hare/Reuters]

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, has proposed broader background checks and ensure mentally ill people do not gain access to guns. But he has rejected calls for bans on assault rifles.

The US leader has called for background checks before, but backed away from the pledge.

Ernest Coverson, manager of Amnesty’s End Gun Violence Campaign, said, “people in the United States cannot reasonably expect to be free from harm – a guarantee of not being shot is impossible.”

He added: “Once again, it is chillingly clear that the US government is unwilling to ensure protection against gun violence.”

Mexico‘s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday urged the US to “control the indiscriminate sale of weapons” after eight Mexicans were shot dead in the El Paso shooting. 

Uruguay‘s warning on travel to the US, issued on Wednesday, advised its citizens to avoid US theme parks, shopping centres, art festivals, religious activities and sporting events, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Venezuela meanwhile advised citizens to “to take extreme precautions or postpone their travels in the face of the proliferation of acts of violence and hate crimes”.

More than 79 million people from other countries are forecast to visit the US as tourists, on business, or as students in 2019, according to the US Travel Association, a national non-profit group based in Washington, DC

The US share of global tourist travel has been declining and is projected to continue to fall through 2022, according to a report issued by the US Travel Association on August 1. Economists pointed to a strong US dollar, weakening global economy, trade tensions and “uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration” as sources of the decline.

A spokesperson for the lobby group declined to comment on Amnesty’s warning.

Source: Al Jazeera