By Lyanneyaliz Hernandez
Esperanza Academy Charter School
The 2019 mass shooting in El Paso — where a man drove 650 miles across Texas to target Mexicans in a Walmart — left 22 people dead, the community in fear, and cemented gun violence as one central issue for Hispanic voters in the upcoming 2020 election.
“Unfortunately when you look at some of the communities, like the community we’re in right now, gun violence is serious,” said Kayla Conklin, an English teacher at Esperanza Academy, especially in Philadelphia where there have been more than 1,400 shootings in 2019, according to the Inquirer’s report of the Philadelphia Police Department.
At Esperanza Academy, located in Hunting Park, Hispanic and Latinx people make up the majority of the student population, which is why teachers like Conklin have a vast amount of concern over younger people of these ethnicities.
“I’ve been lucky enough to not have lost a student to gun violence, but it’s something that I think about,” Conklin said. The teacher feels that the dangerous rhetoric against Hispanics has only caused violence.
For Hispanics ages 15 to 24, homicide is the leading cause of death according to the Violence Policy Center’s studies on Hispanic Victims of Lethal Firearms Violence in the United States. Just like homicide, suicides involving firearms are also exceptionally high for Hispanics. Between 1999 and 2015, there have been a total of 15,593 gun suicides alone among them, according to the Violence Policy Center’s study.
“The Hispanic/Latino community in this case is uniquely tight-knit,” says Kim Fritz, youth director from The Connect Church in Cherry Hill.
Many voters believe that President Donald Trump is the influence of the anti-Latinx language going around, especially in heavily Hispanic and Latinx populated states.
Trump’s rhetoric about immigration–words like “invasion” and “infestation”–has, since then, gained immense support, particularly from white supremacists.
In the case of the El Paso shooting, the shooter aimed to harm Hispanics and Latinxs, specifically Mexicans, according to an arrest affidavit, who make up 83% of El Paso’s residents, as concluded by the US Census Bureau.
Regarding Trump’s approval ratings, 35% of Latinxs approve of the work Trump is doing, according to Harvard-Harris’ January 2020 poll.
On the campaign trail, Trump and Democratic candidates for president have highlighted gun violence as an important issue. And, in Washington, a stricter gun background check bill was passed by the House last year but has stalled in the Senate.
checks to all gun sales and transfers.
“Gun control does not necessarily mean gun withdrawal,” Fritz said.
But not everyone in this community has the same perspective towards the subject.
“I don’t think Latinos think as highly about gun control as other ethnic groups,” says Mateo Ruiz, a junior at Esperanza Academy.
Ruiz continues, “I think that their main concern is to vote for someone who will eliminate the alienation a lot of them feel.”