Washington D.C. – A 21-year-old gunman armed with a powerful rifle turned a crowded Walmart store in El Paso, Texas into a scene of chaos and bloodshed on Saturday. The apparently racially motivated attack left at least 20 people dead and 26 others wounded. Define American, a leading immigration and media advocacy organization, and Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, are releasing a joint statement because we can no longer operate our movements in silos. The lethal marriage of guns and hate can no longer be ignored.
Ryan Eller, Executive Director of Define American, said the following:
It has now become clear that the suspect in the El Paso shooting was motivated by hate and acted out of toxic, xenophobic motives. Our hearts go out to the community that grieves due to this senseless act of hate, terror and violence.
From the recent xenophobic synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, to the shooting just a week ago in Gilroy, we are seeing the results of a narrative that has been allowed to dangerously go unchecked for far too long. These are not lone wolves, but violent soldiers in a cultural battle for the very identity of our nation, who have easy access to guns.
Put simply, a 21-year-old white man from Texas doesn’t drive hours to El Paso, the current epicenter of national discourse around immigration, and viciously murder 20 Americans for no reason. He, like the terrorists before him, was clearly influenced by xenophobic media narratives that demonize people of color and immigrants.
The media must call this what it is: a hate crime and terrorism. But more than that, the media must end it’s complicity in amplifying and deepening narratives that are put forward by hate groups and the dehumanizing language they utilize. And, it must do so immediately.
Those offering prayers over Twitter but no action are part of the problem. Real prayer provides direction. Prayer, in times like these, must lead to action.
When we say #WordsMatter, it’s not because we’re being “politically correct.” People are dying. Lives are at stake. The very soul of our nation is in jeopardy. We must have an urgent, national, difficult conversation about how we define American.
John Feinblatt, President, Everytown for Gun Safety, said the following:
While many details about the horrific crime in El Paso are still emerging, we know one thing for sure: When hate comes armed with a gun, it’s deadly. We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of people fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment, racism, xenophobia and homophobia. We must disarm hate.
Ryan Eller our executive director arrived home from El Paso just a few days ago, after spending time with faith leaders and organizations doing critical work in border communities and hearing first-hand stories of Americans and asylum-seekers in the area who represent the very best of who we aspire to be. Our Communications Director, Kristian Ramos, is from El Paso. Our Strategic Growth Manager, Ana Molina, is from Plano, Texas, which neighbors the town of Allen. All are available for comment.
For further comment, please contact Communications Director Kristian Ramos.