On-campus hearing addresses mass violence prevention and safety

The+senators+listen+to+District+Attorney+Jaime+Esparza+as+he+speaks+at+the+Senate+Select+Committee+on+Mass+Violence+Prevention+and+Community+Safety+at+the+Natural+Gas+Building+on+Mon.+Oct.+21%2C+2019.

Paulina Astrid Spencer

The senators listen to District Attorney Jaime Esparza as he speaks at the Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety at the Natural Gas Building on Mon. Oct. 21, 2019.

Paulina Astrid Spencer, Staff Reporter

The Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety held a hearing at UTEP’s Natural Gas Conference Center to address mass violence prevention and the safety of the community Monday Oct. 21 

The hearing comes nearly three months after a mass shooting in El Paso in early August. The committee included Texas Senators Donna Campbell, Kelly Hancock, Jane Nelson, Charles Perry, Jose Rodriguez, Larry Taylor and John Whitmire, along with senators Joan Huffman, chair, and Judith Zaffirini, vice chair 

The hearing focused on learning firsthand about the personal, family and community impact that recent mass shootings had on Texans and the border community. The committee had hearings in Austin, El Paso and the Midland and Odessa areas to meet with victims, families and community members affected by the tragic shootings.  

According to the official website for the Texas Senate, the committee’s purpose for the hearings is to examine ways to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who would not pass a federal background check while protecting the Second Amendment and Texans right to bear arms while keeping Texans safe. 

People voiced their experiences regarding the aftershock of the shooting throughout the three panels that made up the hearing 

The first panel featured El Paso Mayor Dee Margo and Jaime Esparza, district attorney for the 34th Judicial District.  

Esparza spoke of his experience the day of the shooting and the days that followed. He said he supports the idea that there is a direct correlation between mass shooters and domestic violence, naming it an important factor of mass shootings.  

Esparza also emphasized the importance of addressing the secondary trauma that has been experienced in the El Paso community. 

“We were a safe city  I still consider us safe — but you cannot forget what happened on Aug. 3 and how that happened to us,” Esparza said. 

At the second panel, Juan Acereto Cervera of binational affairs gave a speech in Spanish about the impact the shooting had in Ciudad JuárezMéxico and its citizens.  

Six of the 22 victims of the Walmart shooting were Mexican nationals and many more had Latino ties. Cervera thanked the El Paso Community Foundation for their monetary donations to the families of the victims and asked the committee to consider compensation for the families of the six victims.  

The Crime Victims’ Compensation (CVC) is a program that helps victims of violent crime and their immediate families with the financial costs of crime, such as medical expenses, loss of wages, funeral expenses and counseling. However, Mexican nationals cannot apply for compensation, as they are not U.S. citizens 

Cervera called El Paso an “oasis” for many people of CiudaJuárez who cross the border and spend money in the city. He said he hopes the state will consider allowing the families of the six victims to apply for compensation. 

Grady, whose daughter is a survivor of the Cielo Vista Walmart shooting, recalled his experience and called for “common-sense gun control legislation” after his daughter spent 60 days in the hospital. He also said he hopes for a world where there is no hate being distributed by the media.  

“Hatred drove the automobile,” Grady said referring to the shooter. “Hatred drove him into our city. 

The committee also had the opportunity to hear from the public.  

El Paso Independent School (EPISD) District Superintendent Juan Cabrera spoke before the committee and asked for gun regulations. Amir Rodriguez, 15, was the youngest victim of the shooting and a student of the EPISD.  

“The state should be responsible for the safety of our schools,” Cabrera said.  

For information regarding the CVC, visit the Office of the Attorney General of Texas at texasattorneygeneral.gov/crime-victims 

Paulina Astrid Spencer may be reached at [email protected]