American school shootings shake international students

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 24, 2023
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A Michigan State student walks past Berkey Hall on his way to class as campus opens for the first day of classes on Feb. 20, 2023, after a mass shooting at the university. [Photo/]

The last time I was in China before the COVID-19 pandemic began, I heard from parents who were afraid to send their children to study in the U.S. because of their fears about school shootings. 

For two families from China, their worst fears were almost realized. On Feb. 13, a murderer descended on the Michigan State University campus in Lansing, Michigan, with two handguns and 50 rounds of ammunition. He busted open classroom doors during evening classes and study sessions and unloaded fire. He ended the lives of three students and severely injured five others. Among the injured were two Chinese students. Another was an American-born daughter of immigrants.

John Hao, one of the victims identified by name, will most likely survive, but he could be paralyzed from the chest down. He will have medical problems for the rest of his life, and his freedom of movement will be greatly limited. His parents are visiting him from China. His medical bills are massive, but the community has chipped in, with over $300,000 raised on GoFundMe.

The reality of American carnage leaves no one unscathed. Over a million international students are studying abroad in the U.S., and 28 million foreign-born workers are living in the country. In recent years, Chinese students have been among the victims of shootings, including students at the University of Chicago, Yale, and the University of Utah. The shooting at Monterey Park, California, which occurred during the 2023 Lunar New Year, robbed the lives of three foreign citizens and multiple immigrants. A Mexican traveler was killed while visiting family at a shooting during a parade in Illinois on July 4, 2022.

The frequency of these brutalities is cutting lives short and coloring perceptions of America. Foreign consulates put out warnings. Tourists think twice before adding America to their itineraries. 

The Chinese consulate responsible for Michigan took charge, activating its emergency response mechanism and contacting family members, an official said. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a report titled "Gun Violence in the United States: Truth and Facts." The content claims, "Gun violence is a chronic disease in the United States," which leaves "an indelible stain on the country's human rights record."

China is not the only country whose government is expressing dire concern.

Japan has issued an advisory that "one of the main security concerns in the United States is gun crime."

The Mexican government warns that "historical racial and ethnic tensions, including opposition to immigration, have led to attacks by violent extremist groups."

Canada says, "Incidences of mass shootings occur, resulting most often in casualties. Although tourists are rarely involved, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Germany's travel advisory for the U.S. notes, "The number of arms and ammunition purchases have increased significantly during the COVID-19 crisis."

According to a global survey conducted in partnership with U.S. News and World Report, the perception of the U.S. as a safe country dropped from No. 38 in the world in 2021 to No. 47 in 2022. 

Americans, of course, are victims themselves. Unfortunately, there is little that could make the laws or culture around gun violence change. With each tragedy, the supporters of unfettered access to killing weapons voice excuses and platitudes to deny the need for taking action. Now the Republican Party controls the House of Representatives, the lower house of the legislature, and they would block any proposed gun safety laws. 

So people will have to live with the slight feeling of uncertain anxiety when visiting the U.S. Or, as the Australian government advises, "If you live in the U.S., learn active shooter drills."

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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