Gun Violence and Mass Shootings Drive Americans Abroad

Family stands together for family portrait with child and dog

About eight-in-ten murders in the United States in 2021, nearly 21,000 deaths, involved a firearm, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). That’s the highest percentage since 1968 when the CDC began keeping online records. Including self-inflicted gun deaths, the US has about four times more firearm inflicted deaths than the next highest reporting nation.

According to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), mass shootings and deaths in the United States have surged about fourfold since 2013.

While fewer than one percent of American citizens are currently emigrants, the number is growing as more families move abroad. Most cite reasons like the growth of remote work, tech tools like language apps, and the lure of more affordable housing and healthcare. However, a growing number have or are considering moving to protect themselves and their families from gun violence and mass shootings.

The United States is known around the world for gun deaths. Despite violent crimes rarely involving tourists, countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom issued travel advisories about domestic extremists, open carry laws, and how to respond to an active shooter.

Gun Law Disconnect

Although most Americans favor stricter gun laws, lawmakers in some states have passed more gun rights, like permitless concealed carry in Florida and TexasTennessee has refused to consider a red flag law proposed by their Republican governor after the deaths of three schoolchildren.

This disconnect leaves parents looking for new ways to shield their children from guns, including leaving the country. This migration is evidenced in the results of the Expatsi Test, where 22.7% of respondents who added a personal motivation for their move abroad listed gun violence, mass shootings, and safety.

Parents Consider Immigration

Drew Manon of Kansas is one example. “I have a toddler, and I’m currently pregnant. The amount of anxiety I experience thinking about my children going to school, my Mexican husband walking out of the house because he might get confronted by a racist, or even me being alone in public as a Black woman has skyrocketed within the last 5 years.”

Manon and her husband are considering Canada, where firearms kill .5 people per 100,000 yearly, compared to 4.12 people per 100,000 in the United States.

Erica Radcliffe lives in Minnesota with her husband and toddler. She says, “I refuse to purchase a bulletproof backpack for her. She doesn’t deserve to live in fear. Her biggest concern should be what to bring to show and tell, not whether she should hide or fight.”

Radcliffe’s family is considering Portugal, Spain, or Germany, where the number of gun deaths per 100,000 people is .4, .12, and .08, respectively.

Cheryl Carter Holdaway is a California mom of two. She explains, “With gun violence being the number one cause of death for kids in the U.S., it feels impossible to stay. It feels like a primal instinct to get my kids (8 and 11) away from this danger.”

Like many American parents, she has a firsthand account of a child facing gun violence. “When my eldest was in kindergarten, we had our first lockdown because a man with a gun walked past campus repeatedly. I’ll never forget getting the alert and the way my heart dropped. We are fed up.”

Holdaway’s husband is a remote worker, so they’re considering countries with digital nomad visas. Holdaway is also open to moving her family on a student visa and pursuing a graduate degree.

Janel Diehr is a mother of three in Florida. She says, “I have three kids: two in elementary and one in preschool. Our preschool was on lockdown a few months ago because an active shooter was in the area. The way I drove as safely as I could, shaking to pick her up early is a memory I won’t soon forget. And we can’t forget, because gun violence is a daily occurrence here.”

Like many parents, they’re torn between keeping their children safe and working to change local laws. “I honestly feel bad for wanting to move from our country because it’s our home,” Diehr admits. “More importantly, so many Americans don’t have the means to move abroad. If we don’t all band together to demand action, then it feels like we’re leaving everyone behind. And also, I remember Columbine happening vividly. Not much has changed; it’s actually gotten worse. So, how do we keep our kids safe if our government refuses? Time to look at other countries.”

Young Adults and Teachers Are Also Leaving

People without children are also fleeing gun violence. Arizona engineer Kiffer Green claims, “I’d like to move to a country with fewer guns, fewer shootings. I could never see myself having a family in the United States.”

The United States has more guns per capita than any other nation at 1.21. Yemen is a distant second with .53 guns per person. The United States doesn’t have the most gun homicides – it’s 18th – but it has the most mass shootings.

In this instance, a mass shooting is defined as an incident where four or more people were injured or killed, and the number is rising, with 476 mass shootings so far this year. CNN reports that 40 million Americans now live within a mile of the mass shooting site.

That’s not lost on Green, who’s working on a move to Europe. He’s visited Germany, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands and plans to tour Portugal and Spain before choosing a new home. He was in Berlin during the Hamburg shooting, one of two in Germany this year, but that didn’t bother him. “I’d rather live where there are two shootings per year rather than two per day,” he says.

Leigh Kane Muto of Washington, D.C., works as a teacher. She says, “​​I teach high school, and it’s one of my top reasons for moving. I live in Virginia where there’s a court case going through, and they have decided that getting shot is a reasonable expectation for the job—like it would be for police.”

Alex Magnus is a high school student in Alabama who wants to attend college in Germany, where school is both safer and free of charge. They point out, “Since middle school, there have been shooter threats; so many times, my classmates and I had to hide until an all-clear. I don’t see why this would stop being an issue in college.” In August, the UNC student newspaper printed texts between classmates facing an active shooter.

‘It’s Supposed to Be Safe’

Several parents grieved the premature loss of American children due to shootings. “My heart aches for the parents who have lost their children and the children who had to experience these random acts of violence in their place of learning when it’s supposed to be safe,” said Manon.

This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Travel Binger.

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