Mass shooting won’t keep Juarenses away from El Paso

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Juarez residents return to binational routine, but wish U.S. exerted tighter control over firearms

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Juarez residents say they will continue to shop, visit relatives and go to their jobs in El Paso despite the mass shooting that claimed 22 lives — including those of eight Mexican citizens — at a Walmart on Saturday.

However, those residents and some elected officials hope the tragedy prompts U.S. lawmakers to tighten gun sales, which they say not only might prevent mass shootings, but also reduce the flow of illegal firearms to criminal gangs in Mexico.

Allen, Texas, resident Patrick Crusius is jailed on capital murder charges stemming from Saturday’s massacre at the Walmart next to Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso. Authorities are investigating whether Crusius is the author of an anti-immigrant manifesto published on social media prior to the shooting. They also recovered an automatic rifle — presumably an AK-47 — allegedly used by the shooter.

“We have always been friends and neighbors. Far from dividing us, events like this terrible tragedy only strengthen our friendship. Right now all of us are hurting, but we are each other’s strength,” said Juarez businesswoman Alejandra de la Vega-Foster.

Some Juarez residents may have stayed away from going to El Paso this weekend, amid constant news reports about the shooting, but have resumed their routine as of Monday, said Juarez city Councilwoman Jacqueline Armendariz.

“I think people were afraid to go the first couple of days, but by now they know this was done by a person who came from somewhere else. They know things like these don’t usually happen there. We will continue to go to El Paso; we will continue to follow our routine,” said Armendariz, who is in charge of binational tourism affairs.

While anecdotal evidence suggests the shooting made some Mexicans stay away from El Paso after the shooting, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials said vehicle traffic was actually higher this Sunday and Monday than the previous week. Pedestrian traffic into the United States was also higher on Monday, though it was slightly lower on Sunday, according to CBP.

At foot of the Downtown bridge to El Paso this Tuesday, a few Juarez residents said they were not afraid to cross the border as a result of the shooting.

“It’s sad that so many people died. One would hope it never happens again. El Paso is a very safe city,” said Cristina Robles, 60, who intended to shop for clothes and shoes for her granddaughters at the stores on South El Paso Street in Downtown El Paso.

“What happened (Saturday) was completely unexpected. Many people I know would prefer to live in El Paso instead of Juarez because of the violence they see in their neighborhoods,” said Miguel Salinas, who was on his way to an appointment with a U.S. immigration agency.

De la Vega-Foster said the social, cultural and business ties between Juarez and El Paso are too strong to be broken by any single event, and that the massacre has created a sense of solidarity among people on both sides of the border.

“I think things will be back to normal sooner rather than later. We have El Pasoans who come to Juarez to watch soccer games and Juarez residents who like to watch baseball in El Paso. We have young people who go to school in El Paso and have El Paso (professionals) who work in Juarez. We are a binational community,” she said.

However, some Mexicans said they wish the mass shooting becomes a wake-up call in the United States to tighten gun control. “I to hope the (U.S.) government does something about the guns, that this becomes a watershed event to reduce indiscriminate gun sales,” Armendariz said. “This is something that has affected us in Mexico for a long time because most of the weapons that are used here come from the United States.”

Former Juarez Mayor Carlos Ponce says Mexican criminals love U.S. guns.

Former Juarez Mayor Dr. Carlos Ponce Torres, said border residents generally share the same culture and beliefs, but not when it comes to guns. “Here, in Mexico, very few ordinary citizens have guns in their homes. In fact, the only ones who carry weapons are police, the army and criminals,” Ponce said. “I know the gun lobby is very strong in the United States, but many of the guns sold there end up doing a lot of harm here.”

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.