By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AMNESTY International has issued a travel advisory for the United States urging people worldwide to use caution while travelling throughout the country amid “ongoing high levels” of gun violence.
The human rights watchdog said an emergency contingency plan is also needed when visiting the US.
In a statement issued yesterday, Amnesty said travellers face increased risks of being targeted with gun violence depending on gender identity, race, country of origin, ethnic background or sexual orientation.
International news outlets have pegged the number of mass shootings in the US at 255, citing the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, which tracks every mass shooting in US. It defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot excluding the shooter.
Asked if the Bahamas government would cosign the advisory, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said while officials are cognizant of the warning, the government’s position has not changed.
“Our position remains the same,” he said. “We advise Bahamians travelling anywhere in the world to remain vigilant, alert and always aware of their circumstance as potential terrorism, both domestic and international, has become almost the new normal.”
Many in the Bahamas have questioned why the Minnis administration has failed to issue a travel warning about the US particularly considering peak travel season and the fact that many citizens frequent Walmart whenever they visit the US.
A Walmart store in El Paso, Texas was where Patrick Crusius, 21, went on a killing rampage ultimately leaving 22 people dead and more than two dozen injured, law enforcement officials there have said.
Amnesty said if people decide to travel to the US, they should be extra vigilant at all times and be wary of the ubiquity of firearms among the population.
Places where large numbers of people gather should be avoided especially cultural events, places of worship, schools and shopping malls, the watchdog said.
There should also be increased caution while visiting local bars, nightclubs and casinos.
“Under international human rights law, the United States has an obligation to enact a range of measures at the federal, state and local levels to regulate access to firearms and to protect the rights of people to live and move freely without the threat if gun violence,” Amnesty International said, adding, “the government has not taken sufficient steps to meet this obligation.”
Crusius told police shortly after his arrest that he allegedly set out to kill as many Mexicans as he could, according to authorities.
On Monday, law enforcement officials told ABC News that Crusius cased the Walmart, going inside on Saturday without any weapons, apparently to size up the clientele inside the store, which is about five miles from the US-Mexico border.
Satisfied with what he saw among the 1,000 to 3,000 people that police estimate were inside at the time, Crusius exited the store and allegedly armed himself.
He returned wearing protective ear muffs, safety glasses and wielding a high-powered assault-style rifle, according to video surveillance of him inside the store.
Police officials said he allegedly started firing indiscriminately at victims before he even walked through the front door.