To curb mass shootings, take a trip abroad – New York Daily News
Once again Americans are trying to make sense of the mass murder that is so banal in public places. Why do we continue to have little or no success in the face of the horrific loss of life?
Insisting that a problem is unsolvable is easy when you’ve never experienced anything different. Other developed nations that taken action after mass shootings don’t see violence at the levels we see. Although we know how other countries effectively prevented mass shootings, how often do Americans directly experience these accomplishments? Not that much.
Americans aren’t known for traveling outside the country, and the numbers show it. According to the State Department, in 2021 there were slightly more than 145 million valid passports in circulation, and this number has increased every year since 1989. But this data also indicates that more than half of the population still do not have one, which means that a majority of our citizens literally never have left the country. (Meanwhile, nearly half of Americans say they live in households where someone owns a gun.)
I’ve been to 28 countries, or about 14% of the world. I have traveled enough to countries with strong gun control laws to see, even as a tourist, that there is a remarkable and noticeable difference – and countries with much less access to guns don’t feel no less free.
While struggling with severe jet lag, I walked the streets of Tokyo at 3 a.m. without apprehension or hesitation. When I went scuba diving off the coast, everyone in my group left their money and passports on the shore, and nothing was stolen. The Japanese leave their bikes unlocked all over the country.
In Japan, only air pistols and shotguns are legal while handguns are banned. Persons wishing to purchase firearms must attend a course, pass a written exam and pass a shooting range test with a result of at least 95%. In 2016, Japan suffered a stabbing attack that resulted in 19 dead and 26 injuredbut it was the biggest mass murder since World War II.
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When I was living in Germany, the worst thing that happened to me was meeting a group of three skinheads at 1am. Knowing immediately that they had no weapons was comforting. I took public transport on my own and walked alone at night in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt and Dresden without fear. Several times I have met people who were belligerent because they could hear my accent, but never did I fear for my life like millions of Americans in our country do.
German gun laws are very specific on what types of weapons are legal. Weapons of war, which are illegal, include machine guns and fully automatic rifles. People who wish to own firearms must apply for a license which requires them to demonstrate that they know and need a firearm. Firearms laws also require specific storage requirements.
In London, pubs close at 11 p.m. Hooliganism is a serious problem. When I wandered through a rough neighborhood, I saw drunken people fighting. The only weapons they had were inept combat techniques. Law enforcement escorted offenders into police vans with brute force and unarmed.
The Firearms Act 1968 lays down requirements and regulations regarding the possession of firearms in the UK. Similar to Japan, no handguns are allowed while shotguns and rifles may require a license. Law enforcement conducts an assessment of the firearms license applicant.
Planning a vacation from the United States to another country may have logistical and financial challenges. However, whenever possible, I encourage all Americans to get a passport and travel the world to experience, at least, that ease and comfort of being in a place where the risks of horrific violence and murder of mass are very low.
We could learn something.
Reppas lives with his family on the east coast.