Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Conversations with Sven: Is Michigan Safe for Holiday?

Sven, a former client of mine who lives in Sweden asked me recently about travel to the great state of Michigan.

"Ted," he asked.  "I've seen those 'Pure Michigan' ads and want to take a trip.  Is it safe there?"

Is it safe?  Of course it is, I told him.

And then the question that almost everyone considers when thinking of travel to the United States: "What about the guns?  They got a lot there, no?"

I took a deep breath.  It's hard to explain this to Americans and even harder explaining it to foreigners.

I told him that yes, there are a lot of guns in Michigan.  But the 436,000 concealed carry permits in Michigan help keep Michiganders and tourists very safe.

"But more people die of guns in Michigan than in car accidents," he said.

Sven had done his research.

That may be true, I told him.  "But Michigan's homicide rate is rather low."

Sven furrowed his eyebrows.  "In 2012, there were 536 murders in Michigan by guns.  All of Sweden only had 58 in the same year."

"Yes, but that is so much lower than California.  California had over 1300 murders by gun in 2012."

"But California's population is larger.  California's murder rate was actually lower than Michigan." He fumbled through some papers.

"What you got there," I asked.

"The F.B.I. Uniform Crime Report," he replied.  "I downloaded it from the internet today."

"Ya.  Here it is," he continued.  "California may have had the most homicides by gun, followed by Texas and Michigan.  But its murder rate was 5.0 per 100,000.  Michigan's was 7.0."

I took a sip of my coffee.  "Yes, but when you look at it that way, Michigan is only #6.  Not even in the top 5."

"Well, the top two aren't even states."

I looked down at the sheet.  He was right.  The top was Puerto Rico with a rate of 26.7.  That was followed by Washington, D.C. with a rate of 13.9.

"Now you have to remember," I told him.  "That rate is not just because of guns, but knives and other weapons as well."

"True," replied Sven.  "But still, the majority of these murders are committed by guns.  Why should I go to Michigan---"  He paused as he scanned the tables.  "---When I can go to New Hampshire, which has the lowest murder rate at 1.8?"

"That's even lower than Sweden, isn't it?"  I said with a smile.

"No, it isn't.  Sweden's murder rate is only .89.  We had only 58 murders with guns.  The United States had close to 10,000.  That's 162 times more than us."

I took another sip of coffee.  "Well, what's there to see in New Hampshire?  You want to live, you need to take risks."

I continued.  "Michigan's got beautiful beaches.  Great bed and breakfasts.  The Henry Ford Museum. Michigan has a lot to offer."

"True," Sven said, folding up his sheets of paper.  "Maybe I go.  Or, maybe just to Canada."

The fact is that America is the greatest place to visit.  Yes, there are a lot of guns.  But the majority of Americans are law-abiding people who just really want to protect others.  They are waiting for that moment when they can pull out their concealed handguns and take out a bad guy with a gun.

"As the NRA says, Sven," I tell him, "The only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  And there are more good guys than bad."

"Just stay out of Detroit," I added.

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