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Editorial: Beware of guns, disease, prejudice — in the U.S.

Passengers wait in line at O'Hare International Airport. Travelers to the U.S. are being warned by their governments of a prevalence of gun violence and other dangers here. File photo by Scott Olson, Getty Images.

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We are used to seeing travel advisories issued by the U.S. State Department that urge Americans to stay away from dangerous pockets in foreign lands. From terrorist activity in the Middle East to kidnappings in Mexico, the U.S. government regularly warns travelers about perilous spots.

But the U.S. isn’t looking so pretty as a travel destination, according to a recent article in USA Today. Foreign governments are warning their citizens about possible trouble they could encounter in their travels in the U.S. — from gun violence to the Zika virus to laws that discriminate against transgender people.

These warnings from other countries should be another kick in the pants to lawmakers to tackle these issues. Tourism is big business in the U.S. Last year, foreign travelers poured $218 billion into the economy.

But we won’t hold our breath.


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Here’s a glimpse of what other governments are saying:

Germany alerts its citizens of our gun culture: “In the U.S. it is relatively easy to obtain possession of weapons,” its travel advisory said. “Should you be the victim of an armed robbery, do not try to fight back.”

Australia, which has strict gun laws, goes into great detail with its advisory: “While FBI statistics suggest that violent crime in the United States has decreased over the last decade, the incidence of mass shootings are occurring more frequently. An FBI study shows that the incidence of ‘active shooter’ events had more than doubled between 2000 and 2013.”

Videos of shootings of African Americans by police led the government of the Bahamas, with a population that is mostly black, to advise young males traveling to the U.S., “to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police.” Other countries made note of the shootings and advised travelers to avoid protests.

Australia and Britain advised of legislation passed in North Carolina and Mississippi that impose restrictions on transgender people. The United Arab Emirates told travelers not to dress in traditional clothing after one of its citizens was roughed up by Ohio police.

Foreign governments are also issuing warnings about the Zika virus, which is being transmitted by mosquitoes in a section of South Florida. We can’t fault them for it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have urged pregnant women in the U.S. to avoid traveling to that area.

The CDC has been waiting for months for funding to fight Zika. That’s yet another area where so far Congress has fallen short.

Our advisory to Americans is this: Tell your government to get serious about solving these problems.

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