By the Numbers: Adding Up the Deaths at the President’s Feet (OPINION)

Dec 10, 2019
1:54 PM

In this Aug. 6, 2019, file photo, people visit a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

It’s not just the numbers in this narrative that are stunning, although they can be enlightening, especially if they represent the weapons that rendered human beings into ripped and burned bodies, the count of which can also stun.

  • 9: family members with dual Mexican/American citizenship murdered by unidentified killers (at first said to be cartel members) in Mexico on November 5.
  • 22: individuals murdered in El Paso (almost all Latinx) by Patrick Crusius, who said he was “targeting Mexicans” and was emboldened by President Donald J. Trump’s racist rhetoric against immigrants.
  • 1,470: estimated gun dealers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, any of whom could have sold Crusius the WASR-10 semi-automatic machine he used to wash El Paso in his bloody hate, although he could have also ordered it or the thousands of rounds he had online, where 45% of all guns bought are purchased without a background check.
  • 150,000: the number of firearms the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) traced to American gun stores and factories and then used by criminals in Mexico, between 2007-2018. (In just 2018, 70% of all the weapons captured and then submitted by Mexican authorities to the ATF were confirmed to be made or sold in the U.S.)
  • 160,000: credible estimates as to the number of intentional homicides that can be directly attributed to the Drug War in Mexico. (This doesn’t include the uncounted in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, el Caribe, or the bodies stumbled over in American alleys.)

Of the numbers above, it was the first —the recent murder of nine family members in Mexico by suspected cartel killers— that elicited a thunderous warning by President Trump after the burned-out shells of the ambushed vehicles were found. Without any evidence as to who the killers were, the American president offered to help wipe Mexican cartels “off the face of the earth.” Given his bombastic bellicosity, his comments were not surprising. What made them especially grotesque was his inaction after the second number in the list above—the murder of 22 individuals in El Paso on August 3 by Crusius, who drove 650 miles from his home in Allen, Texas, walked into an El Paso Walmart and gunned down 46 people, 22 of whom died.

After that horrific event, Trump didn’t offer to wage war on anyone, unless it was Sega, Nintendo, and Atari.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” Trump said the Monday after the El Paso shooting. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Nothing about the racist manifesto Crusius published online just before his killing spree; not one word about the 725,368 handguns, long guns, shotguns and semi-automatic guns registered in Texas in 2019. Does it matter to the racist-in-chief that the nine women and children killed by as yet unknown assassins in Mexico were Anglo? Maybe. Does it matter that the people targeted by Crusius in El Paso were Mexican, brown-skinned shoppers dreamily filling the coffers of the biggest superstore in the self-proclaimed safest city in the United States? Maybe.

What does matter is that all the numbers above are tied together, bodies and bullets, by the increasing and inescapable contempt that Republicans in this country display toward anyone who does not resemble them. That contempt is exemplified by the stuttering slander Trump spits at anyone with brown or black skin, at all immigrants from “shithole countries,” at nations torn asunder by the American appetite for violence and guns and drugs—Americans unwilling to look inward, who threaten and bluster and ask everyone else to be accountable, anyone but themselves.


Jorge Antonio Renaud is the SW Regional Director for Policy and Advocacy for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.