It’s an innocent question but whenever people ask me why I left the US for the UAE, I often wonder how much I should admit.
On Monday, rocker Ozzy Osbourne told The Guardian that he and his wife Sharon would be leaving America to move back to the UK for good, saying gun violence was a major factor.
“I’m fed up with people getting killed every day,” the singer told the British newspaper.
“God knows how many people have been shot in school shootings. And there was that mass shooting in Vegas at that concert.”
Sharon said: “America has changed so drastically. It isn’t the United States of America at all. Nothing’s united about it. It’s a very weird place to live right now.”
Even though I haven’t lived in the US since 2014, I can empathise with those feelings because I can see just how much things have changed.
When I moved from Boston to Abu Dhabi eight years ago, it was on a whim. Even though I didn’t know much about the Middle East, it felt like the right move.
Over the years, I’ve come to truly enjoy life abroad — and one of the reasons for that is how safe it is in comparison to many other countries.
A 2021 survey by Georgetown University has the UAE ranked first in terms of community safety, with 98.5 per cent of women saying they felt safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods at night — something I couldn't always say in America.
So, when I’m asked why I decided to leave the US, responding with, “Well, because I don’t want to be killed in a mass shooting” doesn’t seem like such an unreasonable answer. It might not be what they want to hear, but it is the truth.
The US has recorded 448 mass shootings so far in 2022, data from the Gun Violence Archive shows.
Of those, 19 are classified as mass murders that have killed at least four people. That's a disturbing statistic for a single year, more so considering there are still four months to go.
I was 11 when Columbine occurred in 1999, when 15 people died and 24 were injured in a mass shooting at a high school in a small town in America.
Back then, it seemed like an outlier, like something that would never happen again.
But then there was Virginia Tech in 2007, when I just had left home to attend university, and then Sandy Hook in 2012, which occurred a couple of weeks before Christmas in a town that was just under a 2.5-hour drive away from where I was.
More recently there’s been Uvalde, Buffalo, Parkland and so on, in the years I’ve lived in Abu Dhabi.
Scroll through the gallery below to see Meghan, Duchess of Sussex paying respects at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
Every time I get a news alert or a text message about a new mass shooting my heart sinks because in a way, by this point, it feels so American.
Other countries that have enacted strict gun control legislation or have banned guns to the general public do not suffer such incidents.
Watching these things continually take place makes me wonder how anyone can truly feel safe in the US any more.
I don't know exactly how many mass shootings have occurred in America since Columbine but I know in the two decades since, every single one of them should have been prevented.
And that's why I won't be leaving Abu Dhabi any time soon.