On Friday August 16, three Oklahoma teenagers stated they were “bored” and then decided to find someone to kill. Their victim was Christopher Lane, a 23-year-old Australian who was stateside on an athletic baseball scholarship. Lane was jogging and minding his own business when the three teens drove up behind him and fatally shot him in the back.
In the aftermath of the shooting, former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer stated, “It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street. People thinking of going to the U.S.A. for business or tourist trips should think carefully about it, given the statistical fact that you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the U.S.A. than in Australia, per capita.” This chart from the Washington Post, using data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, shows that the U.S. indeed has the highest rate of gun-related killings in the developed world.
There are two issues with Fischer's statement that need to be examined: The U.S. manufactures and harbors many more guns than Australia, and if you wish to boycott traveling to the U.S. due to violence, there are few places on Earth that can serve as adequate travel options. Human nature is the problem, not guns.
If more money is present, it is human nature to be more inclined to spend. If more alcohol is available, it is human nature to be more inclined to drink. If more stores exist in one location, it is human nature to be more inclined to shop (this is called a mall). If more joints are passed around, it is human nature to be more inclined to smoke. If more guns are present, more triggers are inclined to be pulled. According to this Business Insider article, there are over 80 guns per hundred civilians in the U.S. and the next highest number belongs to Yemen, at about 55 guns per hundred civilians. Are we really that surprised that the data tells us that a person is 15 times more likely to be killed by a gun in the U.S. than Australia, when guns are exponentially more prevalent?
Yes, the U.S. has a history of violence, but Australia is no stranger to this game. Deputy PM Fischer’s comments about Australia concerning gun violence should not be examined in a vacuum, because his country has massacred and discriminated against Aboriginal Australians for hundreds of years. Just last year, Australia was set to amend its constitution to outlaw discrimination and recognize the Aborigines as the first people of the continent.
If you wish to boycott the U.S. as a travel destination due to violence, do not make plans to travel to the World Cup in Brazil next summer. Brazilian citizens are rioting over government spending on the futebol tournament and being shot by police with rubber bullets. This country is building stadiums for the world stage at the expense of its people, who are in turn furious with the decision to spend money on a sport rather than support the country’s infrastructure. Mexico should be taken off the list as well, as it is constantly plagued by cartel-driven violence. Jamaica? Forget about it, mon. The Middle East? If you have been living under a rock for the past two years, ask Egypt how tourist numbers have been for the Pyramids in the last 24 months.
The bottom line is that human beings have been fighting with and killing each other with efficiency long before guns came on the scene. It is the one thing we are the best at: eliminating each other. Should we pretend that violence was not an issue during the days when the bow and arrow and the sword respectively had their chances to guide history? The weapons available have simply acted as a conduit, allowing human nature to come to fruition.
It does not matter where you travel. There will be blood.