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Across The Border From El Paso, Mexicans Are Asking The U.S. For Tougher Gun Laws


At least seven of those killed in the mass shooting in El Paso were Mexicans. And just over the river that forms the U.S. border, Mexicans are looking on today and grieving. Mexican officials are calling for action. They have known violence from the drug wars, but they see this as very different - an attack on Mexicans just for their nationality. NPR's Carrie Kahn joins us from Juarez, just across the river from El Paso.

And, Carrie, will you begin by just telling us a little bit about the Mexican victims?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Sure, of course. U.S. authorities just released the names of all the victims. There's some discrepancies with what Mexican officials have been releasing. But this is what we know about a few of the Mexican victims. Let me tell you about one woman, María Eugenia Legarte (ph). She's - she was 58. She had crossed the border and was picking up her daughter at the El Paso Airport, according to local press reports here. But she decided to run into Walmart first, and her daughter had learned hours later why her mother never showed up at the terminal to get her.

There's a lot of condolences on this side of the border for a beloved elementary school teacher. Her name is Elsa Mendoza Marquez (ph). She was visiting family in El Paso and, again, just decided to run into the store quickly. And she left her son and her husband in the car in the parking lot while she dashed in. They survived. She was 57 and is being remembered as a wonderful teacher here in Juarez by relatives posting on social media. And the teachers union has been tweeting remembrances.

The Mexican foreign minister announced the latest man who succumbed to his wounds today. He was 77 years old, and he had just moved, Ari, to El Paso six months ago with his wife. U.S. officials have him listed as an American. A niece who lives in Ciudad Juarez told Reuters that her uncle jumped in front of his wife to shield her from the bullets right as they entered the Walmart and were encountered by the gunman.

SHAPIRO: How have Mexican officials responded today?

KAHN: We've heard a lot today from the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard. He is in El Paso. He was visiting with victims and family members and hospitals there. I saw him just as he arrived into Juarez on this side of the border. And he's - you know, he's, like, the most indignant of Mexican officials we've heard from. He unequivocally called this a terrorist attack against Mexicans, one he says he hasn't seen in his memory. He says he will initiate legal action - not sure exactly what his options are. But he said maybe Mexico will ask for extradition of the gunman. He also has called for more tightening of gun laws in the U.S. Mexico's president has been more tempered in his reaction, although he did say he hopes the shooting will spark a much-needed discussion about changing laws.

SHAPIRO: You know, these two cities, Juarez and El Paso, are so closely connected. And typically, Juarez is the more dangerous place, and El Paso is the safer place. So what do the residents of Juarez who you've talked to today tell you? What are they saying?

KAHN: Yeah. They're just - they're trying to understand why, like, you know, everybody else is trying to understand why. They say, you know, in Juarez, the violence - you can understand it a little bit. It's drug traffickers. It's gangs settling scores. But they don't understand why somebody would go and shoot up a store filled with innocent people and target Mexicans. Many talked about President Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican rhetoric. I was talking to a 19-year-old woman. Her name is Angela Aguilar (ph). She's just about to start university in El Paso. And she was very upset with President Trump. And here's what she said.

ANGELA AGUILAR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says, sometimes, you know, we don't express ourselves very well, and words can be misinterpreted and call people to action - bad actions. And she said she just wished that President Trump would watch his words more carefully.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn in Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Thank you, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.