Gun Crime in the USA: What Travelers Need to Know to Stay Safe

Despite the news reports on gun related violence, will you really see guns in the USA? What's the risk of being victim? We take a look at the situation.

View of a USA city from above Photo © Getty Images/EyeEm

Some people assume everyone walks around with guns in America. Not true. Nor are there gang shootouts on every street corner contrary to what tv shows like to portray.

For the most part, the people who own or carry guns legally aren't the problem. It's the criminals with illegal weapons that pose the most threat, and that's only a concern to travelers because there are so many illegal guns out there.

First a few statistics:

  • In 2016, U.S. gun manufacturers cranked out 11 million weapons. Some estimates now claim there are more guns than people in this country
  • On average, more than 33,900 Americans die from gun violence every year (including suicide). That’s about how many people die in car accidents on our streets and highways annually
  • According to Gun Violence Archive, there were 447 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2016 (increase of 147 on 2015) in which four or more people were wounded and/or killed (not including the shooter)
  • Forty percent of the guns sold in the U.S. are done without a background check, via online sales and gun shows.

Illegal guns

As of 2015, Americans owned about 357 million firearms, with 100 million being handguns. Each year, however, tens of thousands more illegal guns circulate around the U.S.

The states exporting the highest number of illegal guns are currently West Virginia and Mississippi. Over 15 percent of West Virginia's guns are recovered during a crime two years or sooner after the initial sale. For Mississippi, this number is 17.4 percent. The states importing the greatest numbers of illegal guns are Florida and California.

Mass shootings

It seems a week doesn't go by that there isn't some kind shooting in the United States, particularly of the mass shooting type. Should travelers be scared of a mass shooting while in the US? In short, no.  Statistically, the likelihood of you being killed in a mass shooting is small. Winning the lottery small. 

The US Department of Homeland Security has published some advice on how to prepare for an active-shooter emergency but no matter where you are 

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Take note of the two nearest exits in any place you visit.

10 most dangerous U.S cities

Based on the violent crime rate, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported the 10 most dangerous cities in the United States in 2018 were:

  1. St. Louis, MO
  2. Memphis, TN
  3. Little Rock, AR
  4. Springfield
  5. Albuquerque
  6. Oakland, CA
  7. Chattanooga
  8. Pueblo
  9. Baltimore, MD
  10. Anchorage, AL

Of course this list should be viewed with a grain of salt. The chances of being randomly targeted remain slim, but if you stroll into the wrong neighborhood or walk on the wrong block, your risk of getting caught in the crossfire of drug and poverty-fueled violence may rise. Always ask locals which areas you should avoid. Some places are ok during the day and not at night, others can be a total no-go regardless of the time of day.

Every place has its good and bad areas. Detriot featured for many years on the FBI listings for cities with the highest crime rate, but the city has experienced a revival recently, drawing in creative types. New bars, restaurants and hotels are opening on a regular basis. 

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  • Robert said

    Damnit, HOW do I order one of those signs to hang on my front door?

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